The World Will Not Quarrel

Day 282 of A Year of War and Peace


The fancies of the poet know no bounds whereas the warrior is constrained on all sides. Virgil, bard of a budding empire, prophesied an imperium without end. Augustus, martial master of Roman sovereignty, his imagination limited by natural bulwarks and recalcitrant barbarian enthusiasms, initiated an imperial policy of non-expansion where the objective of the Caesars was to preserve the Roman frontier rather than to extend it. This wise counsel, followed with few exceptions, fueled the growth of the Pax Romana and left a legacy for future leaders that sometimes less is more.

Kutuzov, our august and cautious Russian general, finds himself today, as he has throughout the campaign, among a volume of Virgils. Each of them urges attack. To the extent of his power Kutuzov refuses their proposals. He does not seek to direct the battle; he seeks to be directed by it. He understands that the multivariate forces at work in the war are beyond his control and he adopts a strategy of calm acceptance rather than brawly adventure. Tolstoy writes of his reward:


Therefore the wise man, embracing unity as he does, will become the world’s model. Not pushing himself forward he will become enlightened; not asserting himself he will become distinguished; not boasting of himself he will acquire merit; not approving himself he will endure. Forasmuch as he will not quarrel, the world will not quarrel with him.

Laozi, Tao Te Ching

This is the two hundred and eighty second 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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