Mornings with Tolstoy – Day Two

And Goodness for All

Mississippi River. ©2014 Photo by Delta Bohemian®

Mississippi River. ©2014 Photo by Delta Bohemian®

By WILLIAM PRENTISS

Clarksdale, Mississippi

I don’t always understand or agree with what Sis reads to me from Leo Tolstoy’s A Calendar of Wisdom, but it sure does make me think. Thinking is about all I can do. I am in a coma: I can’t see, move, blink, or feel pain, nothing. But I can hear, and pray.

What I would give to belly chuckle, tears streaming down my face like a late August rain. One day, maybe, who knows? I am the product of an undeserved ass-whuppin’, I haven’t lost all my Mississippi Delta humor, but I sure don’t laugh like I used to. Understatement.

Sis visits me most days, maybe all days. I am not sure. I am not always present, though I can’t tell you where I go. The highlight of my day, no, my life, is when she reads a daily devotional to me from Jesus Calling, a daily reading from Tolstoy, and a chapter from the book of Proverbs. There are 31 chapters in Proverbs, so she reads me one per day. She also fills me in on “the news,” but she is careful not to upset me with things beyond my control, which is everything.

Tolstoy was a Russian writer who wrote the epic novel War and Peace. His Calendar of Wisdom was an effort to collect the “wisdom of the centuries in one book,” but it was also his favorite everyday reading. I started reading the devotional book not long prior to my change in circumstances. Proverbs and Jesus Calling were the other two books I had been reading faithfully for just a short time. Somehow out of this trinity of inspiration my time without temporal end has been endurable. I don’t understand why I am here, but God knows, and that’s all I know.

Today’s Tolstoy, September 4, was about “goodness!” Sis first read Tolstoy’s focusing theme quote of the day: “Real goodness is not something that can be acquired in an instant, but only through constant effort, because real goodness lies in constantly striving for perfection.”

The bad news for me is I can’t strive for anything, or can I, but the good news is I don’t have to worry about acquiring anything in an instant, because there are no instant anythings in my life. If God chooses not to let me hear the life-ending, flat-line beep of the deceased, then I got all the time in the world.

The second and culminating quote for today was: “Strive for goodness without any expectations for rapid or noticeable success. You will not see the results of your efforts, because the further you progress, the higher the ideal of perfection toward which you strive rises. The effort of striving for goodness, the process itself, justifies our lives.”

That is a heady saying. I think it means the process of endeavoring to be good is it’s own reward and the reward is proof that we live not in vain. The better we become the more we realize how far we have to go to be who we want to be.

Now how can a fella in a coma without an audience become better and justify his very existence. Well, I can pray for folks in the now and improve my mind and heart in case something changes in my seemingly endless circumstance. If God is good all the time, and I believe that, then I reckon I am still here for a reason. Leo may have a point…

 

“MORNINGS WITH TOLSTOY” consists of the inner reflections of a man in a coma, the victim of a senseless beating. He can only hear, and no one knows this, but maybe his sister. Sis reads three devotional pieces daily and the internal dialogue reflects his response to them. 

Mornings with Tolstoy – The Beginning

Mornings with Tolstoy – Day Two: And Goodness for All

Mornings with Tolstoy – Day Three: Focus on the present

Mornings with Tolstoy – Day Four: Pilgrims

Mornings with Tolstoy – Day Five: Fettered by Dysfunction

Mornings with Tolstoy – Day Six: Limitations of Pride and Selfishness

Mornings with Tolstoy – Day Seven: Empathy, Compassion and the Root of Both

Mornings with Tolstoy – Day Eight: Religion and Intellect

Mornings with Tolstoy – Day Nine: Conscience, God, Others, and Self

Mornings with Tolstoy – Day Ten: Wealth

Mornings with Tolstoy – Day Eleven: Where?

Mornings with Tolstoy – Day Twelve: Civilization and the Inner Self

Mornings with Tolstoy – Day Thirteen: Judgment, Intentions and Actions


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Comments

  1. Billy, this is amazing. I’ve read #9 and the first two, and plan on reading the rest. The premise for this is unlike anything I’ve read, and it feels both dreamlike and completely real at the same time. Great work!

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