Leo Tolstoy
· The Circle of Reading
Translated by Dmitry Fadeyev

January 29

Do not think that wisdom is a property that only special people possess. Wisdom is necessary for everyone and thus it is natural to everyone. Wisdom consists in knowing one’s purpose and the means to fulfill it.

1

There are three ways to reach wisdom: first, by way of contemplation, this way is the most noble; second, by way of imitation, this way is the easiest; and third, by way of experience, this way is the most difficult.

— Confucius

2

A person’s dignity is measured not by the truth he possesses, but by how much work he put in to obtain it.

— Lessing

3

Life is a school in which misfortune is a better teacher than fortune.

— Suleiman of Granada

4

If you want to learn about yourself, look at other people and their actions.

If you want to learn about other people, take a look into your own heart.

— Schiller

5

To understand things means first to spend time in them and then to go outside of them. What is required, then, is captivation followed by liberation; enchantment followed by disenchantment; passion followed by coolness. The one who is enchanted is equally incapable of understanding as the one who has not been enchanted. The only things we know well are the things we had first believed and then criticized. In order to understand one must be free, but before this one must be captivated.

— Amiel

6

When the lifespan of a human being or a nation appears to us as insignificant as the life of a fruit fly, and, vice versa, when the life of a fruit fly is like the life of a celestial body with its dust of nations, we feel ourselves to be both very small and very great, and from the height of the celestial expanse we can examine our own existence and those little whirlwinds that disturb our little Europe. This is what makes thought free.

— Amiel

7

From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all. What we commonly call man, the eating, drinking, planting, counting man, does not, as we know him, represent himself, but misrepresents himself. Him we do not respect, but the soul, whose organ he is, would he let it appear through his action, would make our knees bend.

A wise old proverb says, “God comes to see us without bell;” that is, as there is no screen or ceiling between our heads and the infinite heavens, so is there no bar or wall in the soul where man, the effect, ceases, and God, the cause, begins.

— Emerson

8

The soul is both its own judge and its own refuge. Do not insult your conscious soul—your highest inner judge.

— Manu


There are no circumstances or deeds that are too insignificant to manifest wisdom.