Prosecute the Present Study
Day 227 of A Year of War and Peace
Benjamin Franklin is known to have scheduled out every single moment of his day. The idea being, of course, that a schedule would help him accomplish the things he wanted to accomplish. Where man plans, unfortunately, life laughs and interrupts. More often than not Franklin failed to execute his daily plans. “But, on the whole,” he reflected, “tho’ I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavour, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it.”
Today Kutuzov is presented with a similar problem. Working under the assumption that the Battle of Borodino has been won and that conditions allow for it, he orders an attack on the French. Circumstances, however, flowing as they do for all of us, chaotically and unintelligibly, preclude the execution of his plans. History’s resoluteness forces Kutuzov to retreat rather than to attack.
Once again, Tolstoy raises the flag of historical determinism. It’s tempting to understand him to be raising the white flag of defeat but that’s not the case. Both Kutuzov and Franklin have their plans. They do everything within their power to execute those plans. When events conspire to contest their plans they do not meet this disappointment with rancor and frustration. Instead they accept their fate with both the resolution to continue on their chosen path and the tranquility born of the understanding that they were never promised success in the first place.