Leo Tolstoy
· The Circle of Reading
Translated by Dmitry Fadeyev

January 21

The more reason strengthens itself in a human being and his passions fade, the more the spiritual life of the love for God and one’s neighbor liberates itself within him. A human being is happy when he consciously helps this.

1

If we were to see a man who, instead of covering the roof of his house and inserting windows, went outside every time it was windy and rainy and, standing there in the wind and the rain, felt angry at the clouds and screamed at them, telling one to go right, the other left—if we were to see such a man we would probably say that he is insane. And meanwhile, we all do the same thing when we feel angry at the evil that other people do, when we rail at them instead of working on uprooting the evil within ourselves. And yet, to eradicate the evil within ourselves—to cover one’s roof, to insert one’s windows—is in our power, and to uproot the evil from the world is as little in our power as to command the clouds. If, instead of teaching others, people spent even a little time teaching themselves, the evil in the world would gradually decrease, and people’s lives would grow ever easier.

2

Do not let mistakes and failed attempts disturb you. Nothing can teach you as much as the recognition of your mistakes. This is one of the primary means of self-education.

— Carlyle

3

Guard your heart from cares that are foreign to you; do not get involved in what does not concern you; instead, strive to improve yourself and make progress on the path to perfection.

— From “Devout Thoughts”

4

Our lives make a moral tradition for our individual selves, as the life of mankind at large makes a moral tradition for the race; and to have once acted greatly seems to make a reason why we should always be noble.

— George Eliot

5

Never think that the little bad deed you have done is unimportant. “What’s done is done, I won’t do it again.” That is not true: you will find it difficult to resist doing again the thing you have already done once. Never say about a good deed that it is not worth your effort because it is so easy, that you can do it whenever you like. Do not think this and do not say this. Even the smallest good deed will always give you more strength to lead a good life, while a bad deed will sap this strength away.

6

A ripe apple fell from an old tree next to a young apple tree. And the young apple tree said to the apple: “Hello, little apple, I hope you rot soon so that you can become just like me.”

“How rude. How about you rot yourself if you like it so much,” said the apple. “Don’t you see how ruddy, nice, strong and juicy I am? I don’t want to rot, I want to be happy.”

“But all your beauty and your body—it is just an ephemeral shell, there is no life in any of it. Life is only in the seed, which is in you and which you don’t know about.”

“There is no seed, that’s nonsense,” said the apple and stopped talking.

This is also how people who do not perceive a spiritual life within themselves think, and they lead a life solely that of an animal. But, like the apple, whether or not a human being wants it, the longer he lives, the thing he considered life gradually weakens and disappears in him, and the true, growing, immortal life becomes clearer and clearer. So would it not be better from the very beginning to live the immortal life that is continuously growing, rather than the life that is dying?


It seems to us that the most important work in the world is the work that is visible: to build a house, to plow a field, to feed the cattle, to gather fruits, and that to work on one’s soul, to do invisible work, is something unimportant, something that may or may not be done. Meanwhile, it is only this work, the work on one’s soul, on making oneself better and kinder every day, only this work is real, while all the other work, the work that is visible, is useful only when this main work on the soul is taking place.