Be Well Content
Day 210 of A Year of War and Peace
The gravity of death pulls down all worldly concerns to a lowly level. Unfortunately for those unprepared for its inevitable approach death elevates itself in substitution of such concerns. That’s how it feels for Prince Andrei in today’s chapter at any rate.
Prince Andrei has nothing left to do. All matters at camp have been settled. He’s left alone on the eve of battle with only his thoughts and empty time to pass.
Time is death’s ambassador so with each passing moment his thoughts delve deeper into contemplation of his mortality. He considers that tomorrow’s battle just might be the most dangerous of his military career. It’s very possible, he reckons, that he’ll be killed. In comparison to the terrible thoughts of nonexistence Prince Andrei realizes how petty and inconsequential all his past worries are.
He thinks specifically of his relationship with Natasha, his father, and his country. He thought love could sustain a long-distance relationship. Space severed whatever feeling he believed bound her to him. His father thought he owned Bald Hills. Napoleon snatched that land away, just as he now threatens to snatch Russia itself away from the Russian people.
All these concerns now pale in comparison to the subject of his impending death. “That all this should still be, but not me,” he muses. He cannot fathom this horror. He looks to the birch trees, the clouds, the smoke of the camp fires and instead of drawing inspiration from nature it all seems terrible and menacing to him.
This is a man who is not ready for death. Thoughts of his demise so agitate him that he is unable to greet Pierre, his best friend in the world, with the joy and welcome natural to friendship. He has only unnatural sarcasm and hostility to offer.
Do not despise death, but be well content with it, since this, too, is one of those things that nature wills. […] Death is one of the operations of nature. […] “come quick, to death, lest perchance I, too, should forget myself.”
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations