Monthly Archives: April 2012

Truth Stumbles in the Streets

In January 1975, I was a passenger in a multi-vehicle accident on an ice covered bridge in heavy fog near Knoxville, TN. The uninjured grabbed everything we could to flag oncoming traffic to stop. Tragically, we could not get everyone’s attention. Ignoring the fact that the bridge was covered in ice cost several people their lives that day.

Does ignoring the facts usually have such a tragic ending? No. Maybe that’s one reason we have a culture that puts a premium on mockery. Is truth really just a matter of opinion? How is it that the most attention-getting person in a group is the most skilled mocker?

When Jesus said believe in God, believe also in me. (John 14:1 KJV, NASB), Jesus was not asking his disciples, “So what are your opinions about God?” He used the word believe the same way Moses used it when God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush. Moses told God that they will not believe me. (Exodus 4:1 KJV). Moses told God that the elders of Israel would not accept the words of God as authoritative. Why? Because they would not accept Moses as a credible witness. Exodus 4:1 actually means they will not accept me.

Did you think the word believe, as used in the Bible, meant accept something without thinking, blindly? It means to examine the facts and come to a conclusion. The best example that I have come up with in our culture is a jury foreman, when the judge asks if the jury has reached a verdict. When the foreman responds “We find the defendant is guilty (or not guilty)” he means that they believe, because they have come to a conclusion based on the evidence. Yes, it is an opinion, but it is a reasoned, informed opinion based on the facts.

Have you noticed that our modern culture no longer believes in absolute authority? Believe now means “l like.” Haven’t you heard statements like “I believe I’ll take chocolate” or “I believe pinstripes are better than plaids”? Tobelieve in God no longer means a reasoned conclusion based on facts. While insisting on logic, proof, and evidence, in practice our Secular Humanist culture demonstrates that facts no longer matter.

Does everyone who names the name of Christ agree up to this point? The principles are rather clear and universal. We begin to run into problems when we attempt to go past the principles. May I give a few examples? I know this is sort of dangerous because we all tend to “go off on tangents.” I only want to use these as examples of ignoring the facts. Notre Dame, Brigham Young and Bob Jones University all have similar student honor codes. This story could have happened at any of these schools. The following quote is from the blog “BradentonPatch,” though there are hundreds of other blogs with the same basic information. “Chis Peterman, a senior at Bob Jones University, racked up demerits after he created an activist group on campus, [attacking the High School principal] and ultimately was kicked out when his last demerits were issued for watching the television show “Glee” off campus. This is the same demerit system used at all of the US military academies, such as West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force academy in Colorado. Many times and in many schools violations of an agreed-upon code of conduct enforced by this demerit system have resulted in student expulsions. Probably the most famous expulsion was West Point, in the case of the rowdy undergrad George Armstrong Custer (George was later reinstated and his record purged, so this does not show up in every history of West Point). The point is, for better or worse, the demerit system has been around awhile.

The Huffington Post posts the following: “So the problem with going to college at a baptist [sic, Baptist should be capitalized and Bob Jones is non-denominational] school like Bob Jones University that ‘s actively working toward returning America to the 1740s is that there are some super ridiculous rules. For example, you can only watch certain TV shows off-campus like Girls and Breaking Bad and reruns of Real Sex. Just kidding. Those shows are most definitely on the banned list.

“Chris Peterman, a student at BJU (insert middle school sense of humor here), claims watching Glee on his computer at an off-campus Starbucks got him in big trouble with the school. So much trouble in fact, that they banned him from graduation by suspending him.

“While I think we can all agree that the plot doesn’t always makes [sic] sense on the show, I doubt that’s why it’s on their unapproved list. I’m going to take a wild guess here and assume it has something to do with their positive portrayal of LGBT students as well as their openess [sic] when it comes to discussing teen sexuality.”

I quoted the article in its entirety. It has no explanation for omitting important facts which turn the entire article into a lie. This is the modern “style.” The Huffington Post probably does not even think of this as a lie because everything in the article is factual (sort of). Simply omitting important information is “not important,” as long as it supports their religious beliefs. And apparently spelling words correctly isn’t important, either.

Is that example unclear? Please let me try again. JFK died 49 years ago, so the basic information about his administration is an established fact. Right? I was so wrong. In a facebook post a few weeks ago, I used JFK as an illustration. JFK was assassinated when I was in the 2nd grade in 1963. I pointed out that his administration was known for immorality. When he died, our teacher talked to us about his death, the school principle talked to us, another person came to school to talk to us, family members talked to me, our pastor talked to us, and so did others. I was only in second grade, so it is all kind of muddled, but the one thing I remember clearly is most, if not everyone, started off with something like, “JFK was an immoral man, but…” At that time, I knew nothing about the policies, religion, political party or history of JFK. All I remember were the eyelevel tabloids.

Was I right to post this as an illustration of something else entirely? Here are some of the comments: 1)”Is it your business to know the details of the confessional?” 2)”As a second grader, I seriously doubt you even know what the word hypocrite meant back then, and suspect the only ones painting the Roman Catholic church as anything were anti-Catholic bigots who have taught you very well to follow in their footsteps.” 3)”You say that public sins should be dealt with publicly, but how many people during JFK’s day knew of his shenanigans? Pretty much nobody, at least not the public.”

To this last comment I wrote, “JFK was a well known serial fornicator.” The same writer replied, “JFK’s pecadillo’s (sic) were not known by the public during his life.”

Why should I include these quotes in this blog? This is a blog about how to treat facts. First, I was alive and remember the tabloids and what people told me. But even if people do not believe me, the following is easily found after searching only a few minutes. The January 2, 1962 issue of Look magazine published a special on the Kennedys. It was quite favorable, but it included a small article on two secretaries who were nicknamed Fiddle and Faddle. National Enquirer (some question as to which tabloid was first) began publishing articles about JFK’s mistresses. In 1962 there were no large-audience-syndicated radio announcers like Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh. Every little station throughout the country had its own stable of announcers. Some picked up on this story. The real news came with the death of Marilyn Monroe, August 5, 1962. When the report said that last person she called was JFK (true or not), that statement unleashed a worldwide media frenzy. In 1963, DNC Chairman John M. Bailey circulated a private memo wondering if JFKs immorality would become such a campaign issue that it would bring down the Democratic Party in the 1964 elections. He mused that maybe JFK should not run again.

This information is easy to find. Once again, this is not about JFK. It is completely about being truthful in handling facts. Yes, there are issues with facts on both sides and like a good juror, we must examine the facts carefully and come to the correct conclusion.

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The Republic of Plato: A Review

About a month ago I read that a classical education indoctrinates a student into Socialism. If The Republic of Plato is held up as the goal of classical education then that is certainly true. Plato’s completely man-centered “ideal society” could very well be the government of the Anti-Christ.

With the idea that you keep your friends close and your enemies closer, I have the Republic on my laptop, on my ebook reader and on CDs so I can listen to it as I drive down the road. This will be my first book review on this blog that is neither positive nor what I consider a “must read.” If you are the type of person who is easily deceived or easily upset when you confront evil, then stay away from the Republic. It advocates the very deceptive form of evil know as collectivism. Plato makes this great evil sound so good, so tempting.

How can the Republic, which opens with “a festival to the goddess” and finishes with a scene in Hades, be man-centered? The goddess is never named. All that Plato talks about are the festivities. The scene in Hades is a form of reincarnation which teaches some form of judgment where your actions and choices in this life determine how you fare in your next incarnation. In other words, it exists in the Republic solely to make people “behave.” That is a method of state control. This vague general “judgment” appears throughout the book. For example, in Book One, it says, “(Cephalus) For let me tell you, Socrates, that when a man thinks himself to be near death, fears and cares enter into his mind which he never had before; the tales of a world below and the punishment which is exacted there of deeds done here were once a laughing matter to him, but now he is tormented with the thought that they may be true…”

In form, The Republic is called a dialogue. Though intended to be read, it is written like a play. A character’s name is written, followed by what is said. It is not as easy to follow as a modern novel, but the names certainly make it easier to know who is speaking. Not every translation includes the names. Also, there is no action like we are used to. Actions can be talked about, but nothing is “shown.” The dialogue is an extended conversation, with lengthy interruptions and arguments. It sounds quite believable, but it does not “flow” smoothly from point to point like a well-written research paper.

Benjamin Jowett translated the most readily available version. I highly recommend it because the opening notes (Introduction) clarify some of the more insidious evils of The Republic. The following are just a few of Plato’s main points. He says that The Republic follows the form of a Greek Tragedy. He believes that through The Republic “Plato reveals to us his own thoughts about divine perfection, which is the idea of good –like the sun in the visible world; –about human perfection, which is justice.” Benjamin Jowett also said, “Plato among the Greeks, like Bacon among the moderns, was the first who conceived a method of knowledge” which we know today as Natural Law. Plato would use education to indoctrinate. “In the ideal State which is constructed by Socrates, the first care of the rulers is to be education.” Jowett makes it clear that Socrates meant to impart much more than mere academic knowledge, just as Natural Law means to teach more than mere Science. Socrates promoted “the conception of a higher State, in which ‘no man calls anything his own,’ and in which there is neither ‘marrying nor giving in marriage,’ and kings are philosophers’ and ‘philosophers are kings;’ and there is another and higher education, intellectual as well as moral and religious, of science as well as of art, and not of youth only but of the whole of life.”

Many know that Plato in his Republic based his state on a philosopher/king. Few, however, are aware that he believed in communism and free love and that these two “natural” principles were to be foundational principles of the state.

Plato says “None of them will have anything specially his or her own.” “Their legislator, having selected the men, will now select the women and give them to them [the legislator gives selected women to selected men]…they must live in common houses and meet at common meals … they will be together … And so they will be drawn by a necessity of their natures to have intercourse with each other…” “… Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes … have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one … cities will never have rest from their evils.”

There are many works about The Republic. Most will mention Socrates, the philosopher/king, and the great illustration of people chained in a cave going their entire lives only seeing shadows on a wall and never seeing reality. The characters are often analyzed in great detail.

The fact that The Republic advocates a rigid class system where laws are enforced by thugs (my word) whom Plato calls “guardians” is rarely, if ever, mentioned. I find Plato’s Republic to be closer to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World or George Orwell’s Animal Farm than Thomas More’s Utopia.

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So, What Is a Book Review Anyway?

From iAuthor's official Facebook page

The last book review I did brought up some interesting questions about a book review. Book reviews are different from most other forms of writing in several ways.

First, whether a book review is printed in a print magazine, newspaper or electronically in a blog or on facebook, the first few lines will be printed with the title. These become your “ad.” The first few lines must be interesting enough to click on the “more” or link or turn the page. These lines must generate enough interest that the reader will invest more time in reading the rest of the review.

Second, compared to a term paper, you already have the thesis statement laid out for you. It always is “you should/should not read this book because…” A skillful writer might turn this “because” into a separate thesis statement which will be the last sentence of the first paragraph.

Third, no matter how much I want to go on about War and Peace, book reviews must be brief. Concentrate on a few points which you believe to be the most important and focus on these points. Use some brief quotes from the work to prove your point and support your conclusions.

Fourth, the best books have weaknesses, except for the Bible, and the worst books have strong points we can all learn from. Include some of each.

Fifth, have a strong conclusion. If you can discern what it is, attempt to show what the author’s point is. Then draw your own conclusion as to why this book should or should not be read. A good book review will not have time for a summary.

 

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Conceived in the Mind

Welcome once again to our Guest Blogger, Author Joana James.

You’ll find that the longer the mind contemplates sin, the easier it is to get past your misgivings and do it. Lesson: Renew your mind quickly!

I often wonder how serial killers, rapists, pedophiles and other unsavory characters find the gall within themselves to commit the heinous crimes that they do. I mean, apart from spiritual bondage, how does a normal person go from normal to sadistic? The answer lies in the mind really. One would imagine that before any of their crimes are committed, these people have imagined doing these things for days, months or even years before they convince themselves that it is ok.

You and I may not be serial killers, rapists or pedophiles, but the same holds true for sin. You often see mature Christians making some big mistakes and wonder, “how did they end up there?” The truth is, they lost the battle in their minds.

Sin begins as a seed planted in the mind. The devil sows the seed of temptation and we water it and let it grow. We entertain the thought. At first, we tell ourselves that it is wrong and we mustn’t do it, but if we don’t do as Romans 12:2 instructs us to and renew our minds, you’ll find the thought coming back over and over again. Slowly we get comfortable with the idea and begin to fantasize about making it happen. Pretty soon, you begin to rationalize, “Well, it would be okay if this was the situation, or if the situation somehow changed in this manner.” Slowly, we’re so comfortable with the idea that when given the opportunity to act, we grab it. And just like that, a mature Christian has committed adultery or fornication etc.

Paul was correct when he instructed the Romans to renew their minds. As Christians, we ought not to entertain carnal thoughts as they lead to our downfall.

Live out Romans 12:2 and kick those seeds of temptation out of your head.

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2 KJV

Be Blessed.

Joana James – Author of From Redemption to MaturityNightmare at Emerald High , Alana and Alyssa’s Secret

About Joana

Joana Melisia James is a young Christian author from the island of Saint Lucia in the Caribbean. Her work includes the two-part series “Alana & Alyssa’s Secret: Rise from the Ashes”, a Christian Thriller “Nightmare at Emerald High” and her latest devotional series Soul Food, with book one, “From Redemption to Maturity” currently available.

Joana is multi-talented. She has been a dancer for over ten years and a singer for most of her life. She is an Information Technology Professional but her passion is writing. She spends most of her free time relaxing with her kindle or in front of the computer screen.

Joana has plans to release several other titles in the coming months, including her newest project, a three part series called “Her Cross to Bear”.

You can grab a copy of the Joana’s Devotional “From Redemption to Maturity” for kindle today for free.

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Through the Windshield 1

More or less random thoughts as I drive across America. I am an Over The Road truck driver. My wife, Mary, rides with me. We traveled through the lower 48 in 6 months. We have also traveled through all the lower Canadian provinces from Vancouver Island to Nova Scotia, except for Saskatchewan, up to Edmonton. We have visited all the Northern Mexican states, though not in a truck, as far South as Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.

This continent is overrun with deer. There are many counties where accidents with deer outnumber all other types of accidents combined. I had a deer run down a 50-foot concrete embankment and run into the side of my trailer in Cincinnati, OH. Wild Hogs are destroying the Southern States; coyotes have eaten most of the rabbits and anything else they can eat in Central Park, NYC. Anyone opposed to hunting has lost their minds. We need to at least double the hunting season of these out-of-control species.

Hawks are good guys. They are spaced about every hundred feet along most non-urban interstates. They perch on telephone poles, fence posts, trees and signs. Hawks seem to prefer manmade perches to trees. Falcons replace Hawks in Colorado, Eagles in Utah, Idaho and Oregon.

We have seen more bald eagles in Iowa than any other State. My uncle, Ron Wilson, told me that he saw hundreds of bald eagles fishing in the Mississippi River on the Illinois side, just south of Iowa. I have seen bald eagles in Maine, upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota, Montana, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, Canada.

Yellowstone Park has trout larger than salmon and bison come up to your vehicle. Grizzly bears up close are scary. Dead coyotes are beginning to outnumber armadillos for roadkill. Speaking of armadillos, the first live ones I ever saw were eating in the grass beside I95 just north of Jacksonville, FL. We see turkeys everywhere.

Last year we drove across I80 in Nebraska during migration. This is beside the Platte River for hundreds of miles. We saw millions of birds; Canada geese, snow geese, several varieties of geese and ducks we could not identify, herons, storks, small black waterfowl, white birds that looked ibis and several types of speckled birds. Birds of the same kind flocked together. The Canada geese circling over the interstate were so thick that they blocked the sun for miles.

In the fall, the pronghorn antelope herd up and travel next to roadways, especially in Wyoming. Though deer carcasses litter the highways by the thousands, I have only seen one antelope carcass, and very few elk carcasses. Elk Mountain, Wyoming does not have Elk roaming within view of the interstate (I80), but the largest Elk carcass I have ever seen was on Elk Mountain. There are farms with tame bison and elk all over the country. The largest herd of bison, with several thousand head, that I am aware of is in central PA.

The last load we picked up near Lake Champlain in Vermont permitted us to view dozens of porcupines dead on the side of the road. Muskrats, groundhogs, prairie dogs, beaver and raccoons are also plentiful.

Laramie Wyoming, at 7100 ft, has an abundance of seagulls and mosquitoes, but is nowhere near a lake.

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Guest Post by Evelyn Puerto: We Can’t Just Swim Through Life Like a Fish

We are privileged today to host Evelyn Puerto on our blog. She contacted us by email and offered us this article, and we are so glad she did.

“I don’t ever want to go back to school. I can’t go back there!”

How many of us have heard our children make the same complaint? How many of us have felt the same way?

This particular child was not fearful of being picked last for dodge ball or failing a test. This little girl, Lena, was from a Baptist family living in the Soviet Union.

Daily she endured teasing and torment from her teacher, who used mocking words that seemed to be able to crack Lena’s bones.

“Stand up, Lena,” her teacher said one day.  “Have you thought about when you will be in heaven? You will look down on us frying in hell.  Will you put salt and pepper on us?”

When Lena came home from school in tears, her mother would offer her a hug and some cake and a listening ear. But she never allowed Lena to wallow in self-pity. After listening to Lena’s woes, trying to encourage her but still encountering stubborn resistance to going back to school, she asked her a question:

“Do you really think you can swim through life like a fish? Do you think you can dive down to the deep waters, where all is calm, and escape the storms on the surface?”

If I’m being honest, my answer to those questions is “yes!” That’s exactly what I’d like to do. If my life doesn’t turn out as well as I want it to, then I would prefer to avoid the trials and tribulations.

The problem is Jesus didn’t guarantee a problem-free life. Instead, He promised the opposite. And then we are told to give thanks in all circumstances. So what good are the difficulties in my life?

·         Trials build character. They take me to the limits of my patience, my strength, and my trust in God, so that by them, my faith becomes mature.

·         Trials build community. They force me to rely on others for help, encouragement and advice, and in the process my pride and independence have to diminish. In the process, I learn how to support others in their time of need.

·         Trials build a witness. By showing non-believing friends and family what God can do in the life of someone who trusts in Him, they see a living testimony that cannot be denied.

The believers in the Soviet Union didn’t know how God would rescue them, any more than Moses did when he was standing with his back to the Red Sea watching Pharaoh’s army approach. All they knew is that God would be with them.

We can’t escape the times or circumstances we live in. We don’t know if life will get harder for believers or not. But instead of diving deep, we need to face the waves head on, trusting God to carry us through. There may be consequences, but the eternal rewards will be great.

Evelyn is the author of Beyond the Rapids. Her website is here: http://www.beyondtherapids.com/

Here is her biography from Goodreads:

I left my career in health care planning to serve as a missionary in Russia for seven years. During those years, I traveled numerous times to Ukraine, where I met and was inspired by the Brynza family. On my return to the states, I began writing about this extraordinary family and how God helped them through decades of religious persecution in the former Soviet Union. My husband and I live in St. Louis, MO with a beautiful but temperamental cat.
Evelyn’s book can be purchased here:
Kindle
Paperback on Amazon:

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War And Peace: A Book Review

If you search for a book, you might go to a library or a bookstore. You might be looking for a magazine or newspaper, or even searching online for an ebook. As you search, you will find that modern fiction dominates. In some places, such as used bookstores, you will find hundreds of fiction books for every nonfiction book. Though fiction is older than Homer’s Iliad, what we think of as fiction today was in many ways born with a Russian we know in the West as Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910). Born Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, War and Peace, along with Anna Karenina, are not only his masterpieces, they are some of the greatest works of all time for any culture.

This is just a very brief mention of the plot and a few very brief comments on style. These comments are supported by a few passages I found interesting.

War and Peace opens in Petersburg, Russia, when Napoleon Bonaparte controls France. It is set in a drawing room where rich aristocrats gather for a social evening. Tolstoy writes down the thoughts and motives of various people, as well as a brief description of the surrounding and a record of the conversations. Leo Tolostoy firmly believed in the gospels, especially the Sermon on the Mount. He adopted a very similar writing style to that found in the first three Gospels and Acts.

Though he goes into the details of individual people’s motives, this is also a sweeping epic of Napoleon’s march across Europe to capture Moscow as told from the Russian point of view. Children become debutantes, get married and have their own children. Men join the army and are killed. Fortunes are made and lost. Yet the entire story is told from the viewpoint of individuals. Like the gospels, no detail is insignificant. “The visitor made a gesture with her hand,” shows both condescension and a desire to change the subject.

The number of characters is bewildering. I never did keep everyone straight. When I saw a movie based on the book, it helped me understand who was who. If you see the movie before reading the book, understand that the movie is “based on” the book. It is not the book.

The main characters are fictional, though they are composites of real people. Real people, such as Napoleon, are referred to, but either do not appear at all in the story or their appearances are well verified by historical documents.

Though Tolstoy was a famous writer by the time War and Peace was published, Leo Tolstoy and his wife took years completely rewriting the story at least seven time. Portions were published in serial form under the title 1805 while they were busy editing it. This created a massive demand for the work, so that War and Peace was translated into at least ten different languages soon after it was written.

The beginning of the story centers around an old sick man, Cyril Vladimirovich Bezukhov, the richest man in all Russia. He is not mentioned by name for several chapters. He has at least one legitimate son and several close relatives. His illegitimate son, Pierre, was sent away to Paris for tutoring. Pierre arrives in the drawing room and horrifies the people there by defending Napoleon. Prince Andrew is given charge of Pierre, but Pierre leaves Prince Andrew and goes back to some friends, gets drunk, and is thrown out of Petersburg.

Tolstoy shifts the scene to women gossiping in Moscow. The gossip scene gives us vivid detail both about society in Moscow and about Pierre.

“That is what comes of a modern education,” exclaimed the visitor. [1805] “It seems that while he was abroad this young man was allowed to do as he liked, now in Petersburg I hear he has been doing such terrible things that he has been expelled by the police.”

“He is a son of Marya Ivanovna Dolokhova, such a worthy woman there, just fancy! Those three got hold of a bear somewhere, put it in a carriage and set off with it to visit some actresses! The police tried to interfere, and what did the young men do? They tied a policeman to the bear back to back and put the bear into the Moyka Canal.”

Since Tolstoy is so skilled at keeping the story moving chronologically, it is difficult to name a “main character.” How the illegitimate son Pierre becomes sole heir to his father’s estate is interesting in itself, but the important point is that Pierre has both a heart for the plight of the Russian peasant and an understanding through his foreign education as to what to do to help them. Pierre represents “doing what is right” when the entire world is fighting you. His father’s estate actually gives him tools to win some battles.

We are introduced to Natasha and Sonya as fifteen year olds. “…just at that charming age when a girl is no longer a child, though the child is not yet a young woman.” They become the romantic focus of the rich and powerful nobility.

Nicholas is my personal favorite. Of noble birth, his parents lose their property and he becomes an officer to support his family. As a trained hunter, he is given a group of what we might call “special forces” to harass Napoleon’s huge army. These are the men, according to Tolstoy, who are the real saviors of Russia, when the regular army is overrun. Yet when he returns to civilian life, his mother does not understand their dire financial situation, which forces Nicholas into desperate circumstances.

Before Pierre is declared legitimate, he goes to Moscow and shows some the same confusion I have.

“Ah, Count Rostov!” exclaimed Pierre joyfully. “Then you are his son, Ilya? Only fancy, I didn’t know you at first. Do you remember how we went to the Sparrow Hills with Madame Jacquot?…It’s such an age…”

“You are mistaken,” said Boris deliberately, with a bold and slightly sarcastic smile. “I am Boris, son of Princess Anna Mikhaylovna Brubetskaya. Rostov, the father, is Ilya, and his son is Nicholas. I never knew any Madame Jacquot.”

Pierre shook his head and arms as if attacked by mosquitoes or bees.

“Oh dear, what am I thinking about? I’ve mixed everything up. One has so many relatives in Moscow! So you are Boris?”

My feelings exactly.

Much latter on, during the battle for Moscow, Pierre’s close friend, mentor and romantic rival, Prince Andrew is mortally wounded by a cannon ball.

“‘Lie down!’ cried the adjutant, throwing himself flat on the ground.

Prince Andrew hesitated. The smoking shell spun like a top between him and the prostrate adjutant, near a wormwood plant between the field and the meadow.

“‘Can this be death?’ thought Prince Andrew, looking with a quite new, envious glance at the grass, the wormwood, and the streamlet of smoke that curled up from the rotating black ball. “I cannot, I do not wish to die. I love life-I love this grass, this earth, this air….’ He thought this, and at the same time remembered that people were looking at him.

“‘It’s shameful, sir!’ he said to the adjutant. “What…”

“He did not finish speaking. At one and the same moment came the sound of an explosion, a whistle of splinters as from a breaking window frame, a suffocation smell of powder, and Prince Andrew started to one side, raising his arm, and fell on his chest.”

While there are happy marriages, there is also lingering death through illness, as in the case of Princess Mary’s father and Natasha. Strategies, conferences with generals, rulers and diplomats, hypocrisies, hope and new children are all painted with vivid realism.

As the book draws to a close, Tolstoy explains why he believes what he does.

The life of the nations is not contained in the lives of a few men, for the connection between those men and the nations has not been found.

Only the expression of the will of the Deity, not dependent on time, can relate to a whole series of events occurring over a period of years or centuries, and only the Deity, independent of everything, can by His sole will determine the direction of humanity’s movement; but man acts in time and himself takes part in what occurs.

The presence of the problem of man’s free will, though unexpressed, is felt at every step of history.

All seriously thinking historians have involuntarily encountered this question. All the contradictions and obscurities of history and the false path historical science has followed are due solely to the lack of a solution of that question.

If the will of every man were free, that is, if each man could act as he pleased, all history would be a series of disconnected incidents.

If there be a single law governing the actions of men, free will cannot exist, for then man’s will is subject to that law.

In this contradiction lies the problem of free will, which from most ancient times has occupied the best human minds and from most ancient times has been presented in its whole tremendous significance.

This issue of the Divine direction of history versus man’s free will takes up many chapters and closes the book War and Peace.

But as in astronomy the new view said: “It is true that we do not feel the movement of the earth, but by admitting its immobility we arrive at absurdity, while admitting its motion (which we do not feel) we arrive at laws,” so also in history the new view says: “It is true that we are not conscious of our dependence, but by admitting our free will we arrive at absurdity, while by admitting our dependence on the external world, on time, and on cause, we arrive at laws.”

In the first case it was necessary to renounce the consciousness of an unreal immobility in space and to recognize a motion we did not feel; in the present case it is similarly necessary to renounce a freedom that does not exist, and recognize a dependence of which we are not conscious.

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