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Near the end of his life, he finally rejected his wealth and privilege and became a wandering ascetic—dying in a train station shortly thereafter.At the height of his fame Tolstoy experienced a crisis of meaning.
It seemed then that the meaning of life was not found in any rational, intellectual knowledge but rather “in an irrational knowledge.
This irrational knowledge was faith…” Tolstoy says he must choose between reason, from which it follows that there is no meaning, and faith, which entails rejecting reason.
This left him with the realization that all is incomprehensible.
Yet Tolstoy noted that the sense of meaninglessness disturbs the learned more than it does the simple people.
There is no way out and the pleasures of life—honey on the branch—are ruined by our inevitable death. Science provides knowledge but it does not give comfort.
Everything leads to the truth: “And the truth is death.” This recognition of death and the meaninglessness of life ruin the joy of life. And the kind of knowledge which gives comfort—knowledge about the meaning of life—doesn’t exist.He also was known for his literal interpretation of the teachings of Jesus.Tolstoy became a pacifist and Christian anarchist, and his ideas of non-violent resistance influenced Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.What follows is that if reason leads to the conclusion that nothing makes sense, then reason is irrational.And if irrationality leads to meaning, then irrationality is really rational.Nietzsche taught me to distrust every optimistic theory.I knew that man’s womanish heart has constant need of consolation, a need to which that super-shrewd sophist the mind is constantly ready to minister.So that “no matter how irrational and monstrous the answers might be that faith gave, they had this advantage that they introduced into each answer the relation of the finite to the infinite, without which there could be no answer.” Only by accepting irrational things—the central tenets of Christianity—could one find an answer to the meaning of life. For Tolstoy “faith was the knowledge of the meaning of human life…Faith is the power of life.If a man lives he believes in something.” And he found this faith, not in the wealthy or the intellectuals, but in the poor and uneducated.He said that he contemplated suicide and could no longer live unless he could find the meaning of his life.He wrote about the crisis in a short work, “A Confession,” which was written in 1882 and first published in 1884.