The Two Most Powerful Warriors
And pomegranate oolong
If you Google “what are the two most powerful warriors,” literally all of the results will say “patience and time.”
Well, I’m not sure literally all of the results will say that. I looked at the first page of results and realized I had no more of either, so I’m calling that research done.
Anyway, I’m not convinced.
I will grant that there are some differences between myself and Leo Tolstoy, the originator of the “patience and time” quote. For starters, I am neither Russian nor dead, at least as of this writing, but our differences run deeper than that.
While I abhor war as Tolstoy did, I did not need to view it first-hand to figure that out, whereas Tolstoy enlisted as an officer in the Crimean war and “... was appalled by the number of deaths involved in warfare…1”
Dude. Ya think?
But are time and patience the two most powerful warriors?
My mother might have answered, “revenge and malice,” because that woman knew how to serve a dish cold. And you’d tip her for serving it. I believe I caught some of that DNA.
Back in the halcyon days of vengeance, before caller ID, and when C.O.D.* was still a thing, a bad friend hurt my feelings. I wiped away the tears, picked up the phone book†, and started calling every pizza place in town. I had a pizza delivered C.O.D. to his house every half hour from around 11:00 am, when he broke the news of his betrayal, until the close of delivery time, at 2:00 am. He had no way of knowing where the next pizzas were coming from, and so which places to call to stop them.
There are a lot of pizza places in a college town. Honestly, the most challenging part of the plan was deciding what kind of pizzas to order after the first dozen or so. I knew he’d be eating them for weeks, and I didn’t want him to get bored. I still had a heart, even if he’d broken it.
So yes, revenge and malice are good. But if prompted, I’d probably choose caffeine and money as my two warriors. Anything is possible with enough of both.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau said that money couldn’t buy happiness, but he alienated entire countries and then pissed off every royal and nobleman who offered him escape from his self-made troubles. He insisted that girls should be trained to care for men, but not formally educated lest they take over the world, and he abandoned each of his children to an orphanage, claiming this was to preserve their unmarried mother’s honor and provide them with a better education than they’d get if they stayed at home. This is not a guy whose opinions we should take seriously.
The warrior quote comes from War and Peace, Tolstoy’s 1,400-ish-page beach read. When he was thirty-three, Tolstoy married seventeen-year-old Sonya. On their wedding night, he insisted she read his diaries, which went into lurid detail about his numerous sexual exploits. Tolstoy’s feelings about women were complicated: He only married one because he was lonely after his brother died, so… that’s not weird.
Sonya wasn’t his first serious relationship. Before her was Valerya, about whom he wrote: “Valerya is ... ignorant if not stupid.'' Two days later: “Valerya is a wonderful girl, but I definitely don't like her.'' Six weeks later: “Valerya and I talked of marriage; she's not stupid and is unusually kind.'' A couple of months after that: “She's grown terribly stout and I definitely have no feelings for her.''
So Sonya became the lucky Countess Tolstoy, having thirteen children with him and, in her spare time, acting as his financial manager, secretary, and editor, hand-writing seven drafts of War and Peace, along with Anna Karenina and all the other works he created during their years together.
As they and their marriage aged, Tolstoy became a radical religious pain in the ass and tried to renounce his earned and inherited wealth, as well as his copyrights, while still expecting Sonya to manage the house, the finances, the surviving children, tend to his needs, and keep editing and transcribing the perfect inkwell copies of his work he demanded she deliver to his publishers.
On the night of October 28th, 1910, sick with pneumonia, after a lifetime of leveraging a public platform, of being answered to, revered, and collecting “Tolstoyan disciples,” Tolstoy took off from home without saying goodbye. He left behind a letter to Sonya that read in part, “Do not seek me. I feel that I must retire from the trouble of life. Perpetual guests, perpetual visits and visitors… poison my life. I want to recover from the trouble of the world...”
He died ten days later at a railway station, disappointingly without throwing himself in front of a train.††
Fifty years. For fifty years Sonya labored over her husband’s work by candlelight after the children were in bed, and while Tolstoy was otherwise occupied with his acolytes. For decades she read his prurient tell-alls and suffered through his public decrying of the very things that made their life possible, while he simultaneously insisted that she somehow maintain the status quo. For fifty years she took care of the family, managed the business and estate, and herself wrote books, though the Russian government wouldn’t allow her work to be published lest her husband’s reputation be sullied.
Then, finally, Tolstoy met his end.
Sonya remained in the family home until her death some nine years later. She had the copyrights she’d protected, and enough money to live comfortably. She was finally able to publish some of her work, and she was left unscathed during the Russian Revolution.
I can’t help but wonder. For all his insistence on revisions, how carefully did Tolstoy read those copies of War and Peace before they were sent to the publishers?
Who really wrote “patience and time?”
See the previous Wikipedia link on Tolstoy
* That’s Cash On Delivery for you revenge philistines. You’d order something, have it delivered anywhere, and the person on the receiving end was expected to pay.
† The phone book was dropped off free at your door every year. You could literally just look people up, their phone numbers and where they lived, because phones were tied to physical addresses.
†† Anna Karenina spoiler alert
I fully admit to being a sucker for things pomegranate. I grew up eating pomegranate on hummus and on other Lebanese foods, or just as a snack. Then suddenly Big Food learned about it, and pomegranate things were in abundance.
I also admit that pomegranate things are often bad, but they don’t have to be. A friend recently told me about a pomegranate oolong tea that is fantastic, and has lots of layers of gentle flavors. On paper it’s also an antioxidant beast, though I’m unconvinced anyone’s life has ever been prolonged by their choice of tea. Choosing tea over whiskey, sure. But one doesn’t have to be so either/or in life.