Friday, February 18, 2011

Tolstoi - and yet more Tolstoi

If there is one author I can wholly relate to and one book - despite it having been written more than one hundred years ago in a societal context so much different from mine - it is Tolstoi and his seminal book „War and Peace“... I am currently into the second volume of two with together a bit more than 2.000 pages... and I find every bit fascinating... I could extract literally dozens of passages that recite profound wisdom and truth - or at least a „truth“ that I share and can relate to...

On musing about the Napoleon foray towards Moscow he writes - among many, many other things- :“...On the outcome of events, there are always so many speculations that - however it may end up- there will always be people who will say: ,I have already said back then, that it will lead to that‘ and we will forget that among countless speculations there will be many who will be completely contrary to the actual outcome... innuendoes and speculations about outcomes that - since proven wrong - have been forgotten long since then...“ [Tolstoi | War and Peace | Third Book, Part II, Chapter I | my English translation from the excellent German translation by Barbara Conrad].

Haven‘t we seen a lot of books on the shelves and pundits on TV who „always“ knew that the financial crisis we‘re all still suffering from was inevitable? ...Forgotten are now the books which described the financial equivalent of the „End of History“ as Francis Fukuyama wrongly predicted the advent of democracy everywhere. The same way there were many economists who predicted a Dow Jones index of astronomical heights and global goldilocks economies. Long forgotten now...

But that is not even how far I want to go with this short piece... In our private lives, how often is hindsight so futile... „I told you so“ so much of a truism as the events have unfolded already and could have seen a different - if now wholly implausible and long forgotten - outcome? And why is it so difficult to free oneself from regrets over missed chances, alternate outcomes that only with hindsight appear as the more desirable course of action?

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