What Men Live By

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1885

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(1828 - 1910) ~ Father of Christian Anarchism : In 1861, during the second of his European tours, Tolstoy met with Proudhon, with whom he exchanged ideas. Inspired by the encounter, Tolstoy returned to Yasnaya Polyana to found thirteen schools that were the first attempt to implement a practical model of libertarian education. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "The Government and all those of the upper classes near the Government who live by other people's work, need some means of dominating the workers, and find this means in the control of the army. Defense against foreign enemies is only an excuse. The German Government frightens its subjects about the Russians and the French; the French Government, frightens its people about the Germans; the Russian Government frightens its people about the French and the Germans; and that is the way with all Governments. But neither Germans nor Russians nor Frenchmen desire to fight their neighbors or other people; but, living in peace, they dread war more than anything else in the world." (From : "Letter to a Non-Commissioned Officer," by Leo Tol....)
• "It is necessary that men should understand things as they are, should call them by their right names, and should know that an army is an instrument for killing, and that the enrollment and management of an army -- the very things which Kings, Emperors, and Presidents occupy themselves with so self-confidently -- is a preparation for murder." (From : "'Thou Shalt Not Kill'," by Leo Tolstoy, August 8,....)
• "Only by recognizing the land as just such an article of common possession as the sun and air will you be able, without bias and justly, to establish the ownership of land among all men, according to any of the existing projects or according to some new project composed or chosen by you in common." (From : "To the Working People," by Leo Tolstoy, Yasnaya P....)

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What Men Live By

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This document contains 26 sections, with 19,711 words or 121,291 characters.

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We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death. —1 Epistle St. John iii. 14. Whoso hath the world’s goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth. —iii. 17-18. Love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. —iv. 7-8. No man hath beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abideth in us. —iv. 12. God is love; and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God abideth in him. —iv. 16. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? —iv. 20. (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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A shoemaker named Simon, who had neither house nor land of his own, lived with his wife and children in a peasant’s hut, and earned his living by his work. Work was cheap, but bread was dear, and what he earned he spent for food. The man and his wife had but one sheepskin coat between them for winter wear, and even that was torn to tatters, and this was the second year he had been wanting to buy sheep-skins for a new coat. Before winter Simon saved up a little money: a three-ruble note lay hidden in his wife’s box, and five rubles and twenty kopecks were owed him by customers in the village. So one morning he prepared to go to the village to buy the sheep-skins. He put on over his shirt his wife’s wadded nankeen jacket, and over that he put his own cloth coat. He took the three-ruble note in his pocket, cut himself a stick to serve as a staff, and started... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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“I’m quite warm,” said he, “though I have no sheep-skin coat. I’ve had a drop, and it runs through all my veins. I need no sheep-skins. I go along and don’t worry about anything. That’s the sort of man I am! What do I care? I can live without sheep-skins. I don’t need them. My wife will fret, to be sure. And, true enough, it is a shame; one works all day long, and then does not get paid. Stop a bit! If you don’t bring that money along, sure enough I’ll skin you, blessed if I don’t. How’s that? He pays twenty kopecks at a time! What can I do with twenty kopecks? Drink it-that’s all one can do! Hard up, he says he is! So he may be—but what about me? You have a house, and cattle, and everything; I’ve only what I stand up in! You have corn of your own growing; I have to buy every grain. Do what I will, I must spen... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Simon approached the stranger, looked at him, and saw that he was a young man, fit, with no bruises on his body, only evidently freezing and frightened, and he sat there leaning back without looking up at Simon, as if too faint to lift his eyes. Simon went close to him, and then the man seemed to wake up. Turning his head, he opened his eyes and looked into Simon’s face. That one look was enough to make Simon fond of the man. He threw the felt boots on the ground, undid his sash, laid it on the boots, and took off his cloth coat. “It’s not a time for talking,” said he. “Come, put this coat on at once!” And Simon took the man by the elbows and helped him to rise. As he stood there, Simon saw that his body was clean and in good condition, his hands and feet shapely, and his face good and kind. He threw his coat over the man’s should... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Simon’s wife had everything ready early that day. She had cut wood, brought water, fed the children, eaten her own meal, and now she sat thinking. She wondered when she ought to make bread: now or tomorrow? There was still a large piece left. “If Simon has had some dinner in town,” thought she, “and does not eat much for supper, the bread will last out another day.” She weighed the piece of bread in her hand again and again, and thought: “I won’t make any more today. We have only enough flour left to bake one batch; We can manage to make this last out till Friday.” So Matryona put away the bread, and sat down at the table to patch her husband’s shirt. While she worked she thought how her husband was buying skins for a winter coat. “If only the dealer does... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Matryona stopped and said: “If he were a good man he would not be naked. Why, he hasn’t even a shirt on him. If he were all right, you would say where you came across the fellow.” “That’s just what I am trying to tell you,” said Simon. “As I came to the shrine I saw him sitting all naked and frozen. It isn’t quite the weather to sit about naked! God sent me to him, or he would have perished. What was I to do? How do we know what may have happened to him? So I took him, clothed him, and brought him along. Don’t be so angry, Matryona. It is a sin. Remember, we all must die one day.” Angry words rose to Matryona’s lips, but she looked at the stranger and was silent. He sat on the edge of the bench, motionless, his hands folded on his knees, his head drooping on his breast, his eyes closed, and his... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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In the morning Simon awoke. The children were still asleep; his wife had gone to the neighbor’s to borrow some bread. The stranger alone was sitting on the bench, dressed in the old shirt and trousers, and looking upwards. His face was brighter than it had been the day before. Simon said to him, “Well, friend; the belly wants bread, and the naked body clothes. One has to work for a living What work do you know?” “I do not know any.” This surprised Simon, but he said, “Men who want to learn can learn anything.” “Men work, and I will work also.” “What is your name?” “Michael.” “Well, Michael, if you don’t wish to talk about yourself, that is your own affair; but... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Day by day and week by week the year went round. Michael lived and worked with Simon. His fame spread till people said that no one sewed boots so neatly and strongly as Simon’s workman, Michael; and from all the district round people came to Simon for their boots, and he began to be well off. One winter day, as Simon and Michael sat working, a carriage on sledge-runners, with three horses and with bells, drove up to the hut. They looked out of the window; the carriage stopped at their door, a fine servant jumped down from the box and opened the door. A gentleman in a fur coat got out and walked up to Simon’s hut. Up jumped Matryona and opened the door wide. The gentleman stooped to enter the hut, and when he drew himself up again his head nearly reached the ceiling, and he seemed quite to fill his end of the room. Simon rose, bowed, and looke... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Then Simon said to Michael: “Well, we have taken the work, but we must see we don’t get into trouble over it. The leather is dear, and the gentleman hot-tempered. We must make no mistakes. Come, your eye is truer and your hands have become nimbler than mine, so you take this measure and cut out the boots. I will finish off the sewing of the vamps.” Michael did as he was told. He took the leather, spread it out on the table, folded it in two, took a knife and began to cut out. Matryona came and watched him cutting, and was surprised to see how he was doing it. Matryona was accustomed to seeing boots made, and she looked and saw that Michael was not cutting the leather for boots, but was cutting it round. She wished to say something, but she thought to herself: “Perhaps I do not understand how gentleman’s b... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Another year passed, and another, and Michael was now living his sixth year with Simon. He lived as before. He went nowhere, only spoke when necessary, and had only smiled twice in all those years—once when Matryona gave him food, and a second time when the gentleman was in their hut. Simon was more than pleased with his workman. He never now asked him where he came from, and only feared lest Michael should go away. They were all at home one day. Matryona was putting iron pots in the oven; the children were running along the benches and looking out of the window; Simon was sewing at one window, and Michael was fastening on a heel at the other. One of the boys ran along the bench to Michael, leaned on his shoulder, and looked out of the window. “Look, Uncle Michael! There is a lady with little girls! She seems to be c... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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The woman, having begun talking, told them the whole story. “It is about six years since their parents died, both in one week: their father was buried on the Tuesday, and their mother died on the Friday. These orphans were born three days after their father’s death, and their mother did not live another day. My husband and I were then living as peasants in the village. We were neighbors of theirs, our yard being next to theirs. Their father was a lonely man; a wood-cutter in the forest. When felling trees one day, they let one fall on him. It fell across his body and crushed his bowels out. They hardly got him home before his soul went to God; and that same week his wife gave birth to twins—these little girls. She was poor and alone; she had no one, young or old, with her. Alone she gave them birth, and alone she met her death.”... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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The woman went away with the girls. Michael rose from the bench, put down his work, and took off his apron. Then, bowing low to Simon and his wife, he said: “Farewell, masters. God has forgiven me. I ask your forgiveness, too, for anything done amiss.” And they saw that a light shone from Michael. And Simon rose, bowed down to Michael, and said: “I see, Michael, that you are no common man, and I can neither keep you nor question you. Only tell me this: how is it that when I found you and brought you home, you were gloomy, and when my wife gave you food you smiled at her and became brighter? Then when the gentleman came to order the boots, you smiled again and became brighter still? And now, when this woman brought the little girls, you smiled a third time, and have become as bright as day? Tell me, Michael, why does your face shine so, and why did you sm... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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And Simon and Matryona understood who it was that had lived with them, and whom they had clothed and fed. And they wept with awe and with joy. And the angel said: “I was alone in the field, naked. I had never known human needs, cold and hunger, till I became a man. I was famished, frozen, and did not know what to do. I saw, near the field I was in, a shrine built for God, and I went to it hoping to find shelter. But the shrine was locked, and I could not enter. So I sat down behind the shrine to shelter myself at least from the wind. Evening drew on. I was hungry, frozen, and in pain. Suddenly I heard a man coming along the road. He carried a pair of boots, and was talking to himself. For the first time since I became a man I saw the mortal face of a man, and his face seemed terrible to me and I turned from it. And I heard the man talking to himself of how to cover his body from the co... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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And the angel’s body was bared, and he was clothed in light so that eye could not look on him; and his voice grew louder, as though it came not from him but from heaven above. And the angel said: “I have learned that all men live not by care for themselves but by love. “It was not given to the mother to know what her children needed for their life. Nor was it given to the rich man to know what he himself needed. Nor is it given to any man to know whether, when evening comes, he will need boots for his body or slippers for his corpse. “I remained alive when I was a man, not by care of myself, but because love was present in a passerby, and because he and his wife pitied and loved me. The orphans remained alive not because of their mother’s care, but because there was love in the heart of a woman, a stranger to the... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid; and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything he might undertake. And this thought having occurred to him, he had it proclaimed throughout his kingdom that he would give a great reward to any one who would teach him what was the right time for every action, and who were the most necessary people, and how he might know what was the most important thing to do. And learned men came to the King, but they all answered his questions differently. In reply to the first question, some said that to know the right time for every action, one must draw up in advance, a table of days, months and years, and must live stri... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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(After Bernardin de Saint-Pierre) In the town of Surat, in India, was a coffee-house where many travelers and foreigners from all parts of the world met and conversed. One day a learned Persian theologian visited this coffee-house. He was a man who had spent his life studying the nature of the Deity, and reading and writing books upon the subject. He had thought, read, and written so much about God, that eventually he lost his wits, became quite confused, and ceased even to believe in the existence of a God. The Shah, hearing of this, had banished him from Persia. After having argued all his life about the First Cause, this unfortunate theologian had ended by quite perplexing himself, and instead of understanding that he had lost his own reason, he began to think that there was no higher Reason controlling the universe. (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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An elder sister came to visit her younger sister in the country. The elder was married to a tradesman in town, the younger to a peasant in the village. As the sisters sat over their tea talking, the elder began to boast of the advantages of town life: saying how comfortably they lived there, how well they dressed, what fine clothes her children wore, what good things they ate and drank, and how she went to the theater, promenades, and entertainments. The younger sister was piqued, and in turn disparaged the life of a tradesman, and stood up for that of a peasant. “I would not change my way of life for yours,” said she. “We may live roughly, but at least we are free from anxiety. You live in better style than we do, but though you often earn more than you need, you are very likely to lose all you have. You know the proverb, ‘Loss a... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Close to the village there lived a lady, a small landowner, who had an estate of about three hundred acres. She had always lived on good terms with the peasants, until she engaged as her steward an old soldier, who took to burdening the people with fines. However careful Pahom tried to be, it happened again and again that now a horse of his got among the lady’s oats, now a cow strayed into her garden, now his calves found their way into her meadows-and he always had to pay a fine. Pahom paid, but grumbled, and, going home in a temper, was rough with his family. All through that summer Pahom had much trouble because of this steward; and he was even glad when winter came and the cattle had to be stabled. Though he grudged the fodder when they could no longer graze on the pasture-land, at least he was free from anxiety about them. In the winter the ne... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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So Pahom was well contented, and everything would have been right if the neighboring peasants would only not have trespassed on his corn-fields and meadows. He appealed to them most civilly, but they still went on: now the Communal herdsmen would let the village cows stray into his meadows; then horses from the night pasture would get among his corn. Pahom turned them out again and again, and forgave their owners, and for a long time he forbore from prosecuting any one. But at last he lost patience and complained to the District Court. He knew it was the peasants’ want of land, and no evil intent on their part, that caused the trouble; but he thought: “I cannot go on overlooking it, or they will destroy all I have. They must be taught a lesson.” So he had them up, gave them one lesson, and then another, and two or three of the p... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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As soon as Pahom and his family arrived at their new abode, he applied for admission into the Commune of a large village. He stood treat to the Elders, and obtained the necessary documents. Five shares of Communal land were given him for his own and his sons’ use: that is to say—125 acres (not altogether, but in different fields) besides the use of the Communal pasture. Pahom put up the buildings he needed, and bought cattle. Of the Communal land alone he had three times as much as at his former home, and the land was good corn-land. He was ten times better off than he had been. He had plenty of arable land and pasturage, and could keep as many head of cattle as he liked. At first, in the bustle of building and settling down, Pahom was pleased with it all, but when he got used to it he began to think that even here he had not enough land. The first year, he sow... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Pahom inquired how to get to the place, and as soon as the tradesman had left him, he prepared to go there himself. He left his wife to look after the homestead, and started on his journey taking his man with him. They stopped at a town on their way, and bought a case of tea, some wine, and other presents, as the tradesman had advised. On and on they went until they had gone more than three hundred miles, and on the seventh day they came to a place where the Bashkirs had pitched their tents. It was all just as the tradesman had said. The people lived on the steppes, by a river, in felt-covered tents. They neither tilled the ground, nor ate bread. Their cattle and horses grazed in herds on the steppe. The colts were tethered behind the tents, and the mares were driven to them twice a day. The mares were milked, and from the milk kumiss was made. It was the women who prepared kumiss, and they... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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While the Bashkirs were disputing, a man in a large fox-fur cap appeared on the scene. They all became silent and rose to their feet. The interpreter said, “This is our Chief himself.” Pahom immediately fetched the best dressing-gown and five pounds of tea, and offered these to the Chief. The Chief accepted them, and seated himself in the place of honor. The Bashkirs at once began telling him something. The Chief listened for a while, then made a sign with his head for them to be silent, and addressing himself to Pahom, said in Russian: “Well, let it be so. Choose whatever piece of land you like; we have plenty of it.” “How can I take as much as I like?” thought Pahom. “I must get a deed to make it secure, or else they may say, ‘It is yours,’ and afterwards may take it away again. (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Pahom lay on the feather-bed, but could not sleep. He kept thinking about the land. “What a large tract I will mark off!” thought he. “I can easily go thirty-five miles in a day. The days are long now, and within a circuit of thirty-five miles what a lot of land there will be! I will sell the poorer land, or let it to peasants, but I’ll pick out the best and farm it. I will buy two ox-teams, and hire two more laborers. About a hundred and fifty acres shall be plow-land, and I will pasture cattle on the rest.” Pahom lay awake all night, and dozed off only just before dawn. Hardly were his eyes closed when he had a dream. He thought he was lying in that same tent, and heard somebody chuckling outside. He wondered who it could be, and rose and went out, and he saw the Bashkir Chief sitting in front of the tent holding his side... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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The Bashkirs got ready and they all started: some mounted on horses, and some in carts. Pahom drove in his own small cart with his servant, and took a spade with him. When they reached the steppe, the morning red was beginning to kindle. They ascended a hillock (called by the Bashkirs a shikhan) and dismounting from their carts and their horses, gathered in one spot. The Chief came up to Pahom and stretched out his arm towards the plain: “See,” said he, “all this, as far as your eye can reach, is ours. You may have any part of it you like.” Pahom’s eyes glistened: it was all virgin soil, as flat as the palm of your hand, as black as the seed of a poppy, and in the hollows different kinds of grasses grew breast high. The Chief took off his fox-fur cap, placed it on the ground and said:... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Pahom went straight towards the hillock, but he now walked with difficulty. He was done up with the heat, his bare feet were cut and bruised, and his legs began to fail. He longed to rest, but it was impossible if he meant to get back before sunset. The sun waits for no man, and it was sinking lower and lower. “Oh dear,” he thought, “if only I have not blundered trying for too much! What if I am too late?” He looked towards the hillock and at the sun. He was still far from his goal, and the sun was already near the rim. Pahom walked on and on; it was very hard walking, but he went quicker and quicker. He pressed on, but was still far from the place. He began running, threw away his coat, his boots, his flask, and his cap, and kept only the spade which he used as a support. “What shall I do,”... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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1. One hundred kopecks make a ruble. The kopeck is worth about half a cent. 2. A non-intoxicating drink usually made from rye-malt and rye-flour. 3. The brick oven in a Russian peasant’s hut is usually built so as to leave a flat top, large enough to lie on, for those who want to sleep in a warm place. 4. 120 “desyatins.” The “desyatina” is properly 2.7 acres; but in this story round numbers are used. 5. Three rubles per “desyatina.” 6. Five “kopecks” for a “desyatina.”... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

Chronology

1885 :
What Men Live By -- Publication.

February 17, 2017 ; 7:49:39 PM (America/Los_Angeles) :
Added to https://www.RevoltLib.com.

May 31, 2021 ; 5:52:23 PM (America/Los_Angeles) :
Last Updated on https://www.RevoltLib.com.

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Posted By : broadie

Original Post Date : January 12, 2020; 05:44:01

Tolstoy is so moving. What a great writer!!

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