What Tolstoy could teach Madonna

In his book A Confession (1884), Leo Tolstoy wrote about his midlife path from atheism to the acceptance of the main tenets of the Russian Orthodox faith.

Tolstoy came to God at around the age of 50, when he started to seriously question the meaning of his life and the prospect of his own mortality.  This is a common theme in the human experience.  Although his many-year struggle with these questions makes for interesting reading, as he was an educated man as the 19th century was winding down, the most relevant aspect now is the mindset of the trendy self-centered artsy upper class that he inhabited in tsarist Russia, for it doesn't take much imagination to see its similarity today.  

Tolstoy wrote that as a young man, what guided his life, apart from animal instincts, was a faith in self-perfection.  This legitimate desire to improve himself, for him, quickly morphed into an obsession not to be better in his own eyes, or even the eyes of God, but in the eyes of others.  As Tolstoy put it, "[a]nd very soon this desire to be better in the eyes of other people was replaced by a desire to be more powerful than other people, that is, more famous, more important, richer than others."

In his upper-class artistic circle, Tolstoy found that he was uniformly praised and encouraged for his raw ambition, love of power, avarice, lust, pride, anger, and revenge.  Looking back at this time, Tolstoy wrote:

I cannot remember these years without horror, revulsion, and pain in my heart. I killed people in war, I challenged people to duels in order to kill them, I lost at cards, I consumed the labor of peasants, I punished them, I fornicated, I deceived. Lies, theft, adultery of every kind, drunkenness, violence, murder ... there was no crime that I did not commit, and for all this my contemporaries praised me and thought me a moral man[.]

At the age of 26, Tolstoy came to St. Petersburg and found that the view of his coevals was that:

... life in general moves on by development, and the main part of in this development is played by us, people who think, and the main influence among people who think is held by us – artists, poets. Our vocation is to teach people. To avoid the natural question being put to one – what do I know and what can I teach? – the theory made it clear that one didn't have to know anything except that the artist and poet teach unconsciously. 

This view flattered Tolstoy.  The belief in the meaning of poetry and development of life was a religious faith.  Here, Tolstoy was a well paid priest in this Darwinian-type faith through his writings.  (Note: Darwin's The Origin of the Species was published in 1859, and this book's influence was percolating through educated society when Tolstoy was in his formative years.)

Looking back in embarrassment, Tolstoy writes:

I naively imagined that I was a poet and artist, and that I could teach everyone without knowing myself what I was teaching.

Fortunately, Tolstoy was a reflective man, and he came to suspect the validity of this faith.

Furthermore, having had doubts about the truth of the actual writers' faith, I started to observe its priests more attentively and came to the conclusion that almost all of them, the writers of this faith, were immoral and mostly bad people, worthless in character -- much lower than the  people I encountered in my previous debauched military life -- but self-confident and pleased with themselves as only truly saintly people can be. ... These people disgusted me; I disgusted myself, and I understood that this faith was a fraud.

...and...

From my association with these people I took away a new vice – a morbidly developed pride and crazy certainty that I was called to teach people without myself knowing what I was teaching.

Speaking about his artistic class, Tolstoy explained how those within it came to believe in their own importance (emphasis mine):

Our real heartfelt reasoning was that we wanted to get as much money and praise as we could. To achieve this aim, we could do nothing else but write books and newspapers. So we did that. But in order for us to do such useless work and have the certainty that we were very important people, a rationalization was needed. It was this: Since we are well paid for this and praised by our fellow artists, we conclude that we are not only important people and also right in our views.

Doesn't this bring to mind the ill educated pop celebrities and "stars" – so-called "artists" – who today opine on serious matters affecting the lives of millions of ordinary people with the conviction that would make Moses blush?  The tip of this degenerate dung heap includes such "luminaries" as Madonna, Springsteen, Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, "Lady" Gaga, Sean Penn, Rosie O'Donnell, and the deranged Ashley Judd, just to mention a few.

They rage at Donald Trump, but one suspects that their true hatred is for the millions of "deplorable" people who voted for the president and their middle-class values of religious faith and patriotism.

If people were to emulate the behavior these artists, America would degenerate into a state that would make Weimar Germany look like a Trappist monastery by comparison.  And if we were to follow their political advice to its logical conclusion, we'd lose the republic and be back near serfdom.  Ah, but our celebrities would still be on top – or so they imagine – teaching us peasants things that they themselves don't know. 

No doubt few, if any, readers of the American Thinker could be influenced by this artistic class.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about many of our fellow citizens.  The sight of glitter causes some people to lose common sense. 

Leo Tolstoy had the inner strength and honesty to repudiate his early life of unbridled pride and superficiality.  After much intellectual struggle, he finally discovered the answers to the questions that were vexing him in the lives of ordinary people.  One has to wonder how many in today's artist class could do the same.  My bet is few, if any.

In his book A Confession (1884), Leo Tolstoy wrote about his midlife path from atheism to the acceptance of the main tenets of the Russian Orthodox faith.

Tolstoy came to God at around the age of 50, when he started to seriously question the meaning of his life and the prospect of his own mortality.  This is a common theme in the human experience.  Although his many-year struggle with these questions makes for interesting reading, as he was an educated man as the 19th century was winding down, the most relevant aspect now is the mindset of the trendy self-centered artsy upper class that he inhabited in tsarist Russia, for it doesn't take much imagination to see its similarity today.  

Tolstoy wrote that as a young man, what guided his life, apart from animal instincts, was a faith in self-perfection.  This legitimate desire to improve himself, for him, quickly morphed into an obsession not to be better in his own eyes, or even the eyes of God, but in the eyes of others.  As Tolstoy put it, "[a]nd very soon this desire to be better in the eyes of other people was replaced by a desire to be more powerful than other people, that is, more famous, more important, richer than others."

In his upper-class artistic circle, Tolstoy found that he was uniformly praised and encouraged for his raw ambition, love of power, avarice, lust, pride, anger, and revenge.  Looking back at this time, Tolstoy wrote:

I cannot remember these years without horror, revulsion, and pain in my heart. I killed people in war, I challenged people to duels in order to kill them, I lost at cards, I consumed the labor of peasants, I punished them, I fornicated, I deceived. Lies, theft, adultery of every kind, drunkenness, violence, murder ... there was no crime that I did not commit, and for all this my contemporaries praised me and thought me a moral man[.]

At the age of 26, Tolstoy came to St. Petersburg and found that the view of his coevals was that:

... life in general moves on by development, and the main part of in this development is played by us, people who think, and the main influence among people who think is held by us – artists, poets. Our vocation is to teach people. To avoid the natural question being put to one – what do I know and what can I teach? – the theory made it clear that one didn't have to know anything except that the artist and poet teach unconsciously. 

This view flattered Tolstoy.  The belief in the meaning of poetry and development of life was a religious faith.  Here, Tolstoy was a well paid priest in this Darwinian-type faith through his writings.  (Note: Darwin's The Origin of the Species was published in 1859, and this book's influence was percolating through educated society when Tolstoy was in his formative years.)

Looking back in embarrassment, Tolstoy writes:

I naively imagined that I was a poet and artist, and that I could teach everyone without knowing myself what I was teaching.

Fortunately, Tolstoy was a reflective man, and he came to suspect the validity of this faith.

Furthermore, having had doubts about the truth of the actual writers' faith, I started to observe its priests more attentively and came to the conclusion that almost all of them, the writers of this faith, were immoral and mostly bad people, worthless in character -- much lower than the  people I encountered in my previous debauched military life -- but self-confident and pleased with themselves as only truly saintly people can be. ... These people disgusted me; I disgusted myself, and I understood that this faith was a fraud.

...and...

From my association with these people I took away a new vice – a morbidly developed pride and crazy certainty that I was called to teach people without myself knowing what I was teaching.

Speaking about his artistic class, Tolstoy explained how those within it came to believe in their own importance (emphasis mine):

Our real heartfelt reasoning was that we wanted to get as much money and praise as we could. To achieve this aim, we could do nothing else but write books and newspapers. So we did that. But in order for us to do such useless work and have the certainty that we were very important people, a rationalization was needed. It was this: Since we are well paid for this and praised by our fellow artists, we conclude that we are not only important people and also right in our views.

Doesn't this bring to mind the ill educated pop celebrities and "stars" – so-called "artists" – who today opine on serious matters affecting the lives of millions of ordinary people with the conviction that would make Moses blush?  The tip of this degenerate dung heap includes such "luminaries" as Madonna, Springsteen, Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, "Lady" Gaga, Sean Penn, Rosie O'Donnell, and the deranged Ashley Judd, just to mention a few.

They rage at Donald Trump, but one suspects that their true hatred is for the millions of "deplorable" people who voted for the president and their middle-class values of religious faith and patriotism.

If people were to emulate the behavior these artists, America would degenerate into a state that would make Weimar Germany look like a Trappist monastery by comparison.  And if we were to follow their political advice to its logical conclusion, we'd lose the republic and be back near serfdom.  Ah, but our celebrities would still be on top – or so they imagine – teaching us peasants things that they themselves don't know. 

No doubt few, if any, readers of the American Thinker could be influenced by this artistic class.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about many of our fellow citizens.  The sight of glitter causes some people to lose common sense. 

Leo Tolstoy had the inner strength and honesty to repudiate his early life of unbridled pride and superficiality.  After much intellectual struggle, he finally discovered the answers to the questions that were vexing him in the lives of ordinary people.  One has to wonder how many in today's artist class could do the same.  My bet is few, if any.

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