The Word

Day 349 of A Year of War and Peace

Shakespeare, Tolstoy’s absolute favorite poet, once wrote that love’s month is ever May. That’s just a language artist’s way of saying that with love everything is forever in bloom, a world of eternal spring. Today we watch love work its fructifying magic in a simple conversation between Natasha and Pierre.

Love’s unity marries minds, empowering the intuitive and empathetic congress of wife and husband depicted in Natasha and Pierre’s conversation. It is the “active virtue” Pierre speaks of when explaining his political aspirations for Russia. It is Platon Karataev’s legacy of seeing “everything [in] loveliness, happiness, and peace.” Its jurisdiction touches all.

Love settles and strengthens Pierre who leaves us today a changed man. Gone is the frenzied dope who once tied a bear to a police officer and pushed them into a river, who reckoned himself the holy assassin of Emperor Napoleon, who married the wrong woman and then shot a man over her, who strode confused and out of place into one of European history’s greatest battles for no good reason other than why not?

Love transforms Natasha too. We first met her, nearly a year ago now, selfishly seeking attention as she chased a doll into the Rostov dining room. Today we say goodbye to her as she chases her new doll, Petya, out of the room, offering him, as she does all now, only selfless service.

Yes, we must say goodbye. Today is the last day we’ll spend with our beloved characters. Curious then that Tolstoy chooses to end things with Nikolenka, a relatively minor character. Why?

I like to think it’s because we are Nikolenka. We are semi-strangers to the story. We have listened to its tale. We have learned its lessons. Now we seek to go forth into the world earnestly applying those lessons, the most important of which is the belief that


Love must be free from boundaries!

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks

This is the three hundred and forty ninth installment in a daily, yearlong, chapter-by-chapter reading devotional and meditation on Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. For more information on this project please read the introduction to the series here.

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For my friends and family, love. For my enemies, durian fruit.

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