Last night I sat down to watch “The Last Station”, a film about final year of Tolstoy’s life. The movie is a tragedy about Tolstoy had come to violate the core values of his life, ironically, while under the persuasion of his followers. At this point in Tolstoy’s life he has abandoned the writing of novels and his now something of a religious figure. His followers view him to be a prophet of God and pressured him to behave as such. His followers believed that Tolstoy’s teachings of non-violent resistance had the potential to liberate Russia from years of oppression. Tolstoy ultimately abandoned his wife and wealth in favor of becoming a wandering aesthetic.
There is much to admire in Tolstoy’s life, but I was left with one important negative lessons from the movie:
Love is easier to opine about than it is to live out. The highest value for Tolstoy was love. However, he was more willing to struggle with learning how to love the peasant-class than he was a single peasant, and ultimately more than he was willing to love his own life. Tolstoy persuaded many to his movement. However, he allowed his confidants to cast his wife has his enemy and he ultimately rejected her. He and his wife held conflicting views about God and politics. Tolstoy, however was the only whose opinions evolved and refined over the years. His wife was constant and consistent. Instead of doing to work of reinventing the parameters of their marriage, Tolstoy simply walked out on a woman who loved him.
I was reminded that as a pastor it is easier for me to talk about love than it is to do the work of love.