Reading for Wednesday, 28 January
And now we switch back to Andrei, who is probably in the bleakest mood we’ve yet encountered him. Even though he faced death five years ago in the last battle we read about, this is quite a different man. Last time, he was hoping to die heroically and be a great hero. However, his first close encounter with death talked him out of that one.
In fact, it made him start to value life a bit more, and the relationship with Natasha probably would have made a hopeful man out of him. But now that everything has gone pear-shaped, the face of death is even more terrible for him.
Not only does death spell the end of life, it highlights the fact that his life has been a waste. (Or at least as far as he prefers it.)
Stephen Covey, in his famous book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, did ask his readers to imagine that they died in three years time. What would they want people to say about them at their funeral? How would they want to be remembered? Which was meant to be an effective way of getting you to think about how you wanted to live your life now.
It is a very powerful question, and I’ve heard people who’ve been diagnosed with cancer talk about how it gave them an amazing perspective on the world and how they only really started living in the face of death. And, of course, there’s the old evangelist question: Where do you want to spend eternity? designed to make us think about what happens after we die as well.
There’s definitely something in the power of death that makes us thoughtful, because we really do spend an inordinate amount of time trying to avoid thinking about it. Our lives are fast, our work is fast, our music is fast, our movies are fast. It’s as if we don’t want to stop sometimes and contemplate what is in store for us. Because what if we did? Would we be happy with the way we live our life?
It’s an interesting question. Do we do a lot of stuff and keep ourselves busy because that’s the stuff we want to have done before we die? Or do we do a lot of stuff and keep ourselves busy because we don’t want to think about dying? Obviously, many people will give different answers, but that can be your take-home question to think about today . . .
I was a bit shocked at the end of this chapter the way poor old Pierre got treated. I didn’t realise how much Andrei had been starting to give him the cold shoulder after the Natasha affair. This was the one really good friendship in the whole book, and it’s looking a bit crumbly. Ah well, we’ll see what happens tomorrow.