What Men Live By

My brothers (Jene Highstein and Stephen Highstein) were 10 and 12 years older than me, and I inherited one of their bedrooms when they went off to college. It’s a magical thing to move into your big brother’s room, and on the bookshelf in that room I found something even more magical.

What I found there was a tiny little book, a short story by Leo Tolstoy, called What Men Live By. I read it then, and enjoyed it, and it stayed with me as I grew from the age of 8 to adulthood. It was a good story back when I was a child, but with each rereading it took on deeper and deeper meaning. How could one little book change so much over the years, even though the words on the pages stayed the same?

Just a little background to this wonderful little work of fiction. I’m sure you know that Tolstoy remains of the world’s best loved authors, a Russian who’s War and Peace and Anna Karenina are considered masterpieces. But what many people don’t know is that in his later years he was responsible for starting a whole spiritual movement, known as Tolstoyism. This phenomenon was depicted beautifully in the Oscar nominated movie, The Last Station, starring Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren.

Tolstoy was probably the most famous person in Russia, but despite massive success he felt his life was devoid of meaning. He sought solace in religion, but became disillusioned with the Church, feeling that there was a great disconnect between the teachings of Jesus, and the practices of the Church. So he tried to work out ways of following Jesus’ teachings more directly on his own, and in doing so, followers began to flock to him, though quite uninvited.

During this later period of his life, he wrote a number of short stories, in my opinion the best of which is What Men Live By, the little book I found on my shelf, 75 years later.

Another 50 years later, I began working on an audio version of the story, narrating, and composing a musical background score. It turned into a big project for a little book, but I felt I had to do it. I can’t explain why I love this story so much, but perhaps when you listen, you’ll understand.

Here is the first part of the story, What Men Live By, by Leo Tolstoy. You’ll find the rest at my website, The Healing Waterfall dot com, where you’re welcome to download the whole thing. At the time I’m making this podcast episode, it’s a free download, though I can’t say for certain it will remain so.

Please enjoy What Men Live By.

… To hear the rest of this program, download it free at The Healing Waterfall. And please remember to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, and leave a review.