The Wisdom of Age
Whereas over time the body degrades the mind, collecting experience, often elevates. That’s one reason why you should ignore the fatuous apothegm to find your inner child. Forget your inner child. Your inner child is a selfish, screeching creature. Find your inner grandfather instead. Your inner grandfather worked two jobs so your mom could go to college and he learned quite a lot of things along the way. Find that guy.
Lucky for the Russians they have found their inner grandfather in Commander-in-Chief Kutuzov. Today he displays some of his agéd wisdom as he administers the Russian side of the Battle of Borodino.
The first thing to note is that Kutuzov, contra Napoleon, practices the Hayekian management style we spoke about yesterday. For the most part, he accepts the suggestions of his underlings with intimate knowledge of the battle. For the time being at least this style is paying its dividends. We see that the French have been repulsed on the left and defeated on the right flank. To achieve this position Kutuzov relies upon the learning of his past. “By long years of military experience,” Tolstoy writes, “he knew and with the wisdom of age understood, that it is impossible for one man to direct hundreds of thousands of others struggling with death, and he knew that the result of a battle is decided not by the orders of a commander-in-chief, nor the place where the troops are stationed, not by the number of cannon or of slaughtered men, but by that intangible force called the spirit of the army, and he watched this force and guided it as far as that was within his power.”
The second thing to note is that Kutuzov’s unwise subordinates continue to hold his advanced age in disdain. We’ve seen this throughout the novel. In today’s chapter the job of mocking Kutuzov’s age falls to Wolzogen. Wolzogen has his own plans for battle and considers Kutuzov to be a “useless old man.” Perhaps, though, Kutuzov should be treated more like petroleum: and aged resource that if properly exploited can light the world.
Time, as it grows old, teaches everything.
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound