1. Young-Mason, Jeanine EdD, RN, CS, FAAN

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Leo Tolstoy's Calendar of Wisdom was his last major work. With it, he fulfilled a dream he had nourished for almost 15 years, that of "collecting the wisdom of the centuries in one book" meant for a general audience. Tolstoy put a huge amount of effort into its creation, preparing 3 revised editions between 1904 and 1910. It was his own favorite everyday reading, a book he would turn to regularly for the rest of his life.


The original idea for this work appeared to come to Tolstoy in the mid-1880s. His first recorded expression of the concept of A Calendar of Wisdom-"a wise thought for every day of the year, from the greatest philosophers of all times and all people"-came in 1884. He wrote in his diary on March 15 of that year: "I have to create a circle of reading for myself: Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Lao-Tzu, Buddha, Pascal, The New Testament."1(pp6-7)


In the second edition of A Calendar of Wisdom, Tolstoy wrote, "I have selected thoughts and grouped them into the following major topics: God, Intellect, Law, Love, Divine Nature of Mankind, Faith, Temptations, Word, Self-Sacrifice, Eternity, Good, Kindness, Unification of People (with God), Prayer, Freedom, Perfection, Work, etc" (ibid, p. 8).


The reader is urged to read Tolstoy's introduction to A Calendar of Wisdom as he explains in detail how he approached his research and writing and that holds a surprise.1(p8)


Herein are thoughts on freedom from A Calendar of Wisdom (May 20):


For a person, for an animal, indeed for any living being, there is neither logic nor meaning in the word "freedom" because all our lives are limited by many constraints. And yet if a person understands himself as a spiritual being, he cannot even speak about not being free: the idea of not being free cannot be applied to the notion of intellect, conscience and love.


Remember that your understanding of your inner self holds the meaning of your life, and it makes you free if you do not force it to serve your flesh. The human soul which is enlightened by understanding and free from passion, and lit with the divine light, stands on a firm foundation.


And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)


Evil does not exist in material nature by itself, but evil exists for every person who understands goodness, and who has the freedom of choice between good and bad. (Marcus Aurelius)


We understand very clearly that to be a person with high morals is to be a person with a liberated soul. Those who are disappointed or concerned or afraid, or who are involved in passions, cannot free their souls. (Confucius)1(p153)


Meditating on these words of wisdom and faith is a precious gift of great importance that we may give ourselves. Tolstoy reminds us of the many constraints in our lives that would prohibit our freedom of choice. Choice is an important word as we do have the right to choose what we read, view, and absorb from other people as well as their personal beliefs and choices. We also know that another person's causes are not our own. How to nourish our own intellect and understand the development of our own conscience as well as what the different kinds of love mean to us has the power to nourish our souls and set us free.




1. Tolstoy L. A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul Written and Selected From the World's Sacred Texts. Sekirin P, trans-ed. New York, NY: Scribner; 1997. [Context Link]