Here’s Looking at Nothing, Kid
Day 5 of A Year of War and Peace
And so they leave the party just as they entered and attended it. Pierre, always the absentminded fellow, unwittingly attempts to leave with a general’s three-cornered hat. Ippolit, Hélène’s half-wit younger brother, as he has throughout the party, brazenly and foolishly flirts with Prince Andrei’s wife. Prince Andrei, much like the honey badger, only without the energy, just doesn’t care. He can’t even summon the will to open his eyes anymore. Now that’s jaded! I always picture Prince Andrei in these earlier chapters as a nineteenth-century Russian Humphrey Bogart, an urbane world-weariness weighing him down.
Prince Andrei does, however, cheer up a bit when he asks Pierre to join him at his house. Pierre obliges, arriving there first. He settles down in the study and starts reading Caesar’s Commentarii de Bello Gallico. When Prince Andrei finally arrives Pierre wishes to resume talk of politics but Andrei isn’t having it. He steers the conversation towards more personal matters, asking Pierre if he’s decided what he wants to do with his life yet. Pierre, of course, has no clue. Pierre then asks Andrei why he has decided to go off to the war. Here we finally get an explanation for why Andrei is so weary and dejected. It is because, he explains, he is profoundly unhappy with his life and feels as if he needs a radical change.
Unhappiness is all too common. Like Prince Andrei, the events in our life can really drag us down. Life’s challenges are like hip-hop: they can’t stop, they won’t stop. So what should we do when life’s plans contradict our life plans? My general response is to wallow away into a sad gallon of cookie dough ice cream and binge watch The Office on Netflix. Epictetus has a pro-tip that might — maybe — be more helpful: Acceptance.
True instruction is this: learning to will that things should happen as they do.
-Epictetus, The Discourses