While most people think of him as one of the 19th century's greatest novelists, few are aware that he was also one of its most radical social and political thinkers.
During a long life from 1828 to 1910, Tolstoy gradually rejected the received beliefs of his aristocratic background and embraced a startlingly unconventional worldview that shocked his peers.
He wrote to a friend, "The truth is that the State is a conspiracy designed not only to exploit, but above all to corrupt its citizens...
Henceforth, I shall never serve any government anywhere." Tolstoy was on his way to becoming an anarchist.
He kept a scythe and sawleaning up against the wall next to his writing desk. Lesson 3: Make a Difference For an upper-class literary gent, Tolstoy made a notable effort to take practical action to alleviate other people's suffering.
His dedication to the peasantry was nowhere more evident than in his famine relief work.This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by contributors (read/edit).Text is available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license; additional terms may apply.Tolstoy fought in the bloody siege of Sebastopol during the Crimean War, a horrific experience that turned him from a regular soldier into a pacifist.A decisive event took place in 1857, when he witnessed a public execution by guillotine in Paris.Lesson 4: Master the Art of Simple Living One of Tolstoy's greatest gifts — and also a source of torment — was his addiction to the question of the meaning of life.He never ceased asking himself why and how he should live, and what was the point of all his money and fame.Lesson 1: Keep an Open Mind One area in which Tolstoy excelled was the ability and willingness to change his mind based on new experiences.It was a skill he began nurturing in the 1850s when he was an army officer.Tracing his personal transformation offers some wise — and surprising — lessons for how we should approach the art of living today. His family had an estate and owned hundreds of serfs.The early life of the young count was raucous and debauched, and he gambled away a fortune through a reckless addiction to cards.