In Book III, Part Two, Chapter 16 of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace the wise old Commander in Chief of the Russian army at the battle of Borodino, General Kutuzov, gives Prince Andrei Bolkonsky some excellent advice:

... And changing the subject, Kutuzov began talking of the Turkish war and the peace that had been concluded. "Yes, I have been much blamed," he said, "both for the war and for the peace . . . but everything came at the right time. 'Everything comes to him who knows how to wait.' And there were as many advisors there as there are here," he went on, returning to a subject that evidently occupied him. "Oh, those advisers, those advisers!" he said. "If we had listened to them we'd still be in Turkey: we should not have made peace, and the war would not be over. Always in haste, and the more haste the less speed. If Kamensky hadn't died first, he'd have come to grief there. He stormed fortresses with thirty thousand men. It's not very difficult to take a fortress: what is difficult is to win a campaign. And for that it's not storming and attacking that are wanted, but patience and time. Kamensky dispatched soldiers to Rustchuk, but I dispatched only them --- patience and time --- and I took more fortresses than he did, and made those Turks eat horseflesh besides!" he said, with a nod of his head. "And the French shall too! You mark my words!" he continued, growing more vehement and pounding his chest. "I'll make them eat horseflesh!" And again tears shone in his eyes.

"But we shall have to accept battle, shall we not?" asked Prince Andrei.

"Very likely. If that's what everybody wants, then there's no help for it. . . . But, believe me, my dear boy, there is no more powerful adversary than those two: patience and time --- they will do it all. But the trouble is . . . that the advisers don't see it that way. Some want this, some want that. . . . What is one to do?" he asked, as if expecting an answer. "What would you do?" he repeated, and his eyes shone with a deep, shrewd look. "I'll tell you what to do, and what I do. When in doubt, my dear fellow ---" he paused, "do nothing." He spoke with deliberate emphasis.

... counsel which I find increasingly true as I become an ever-older and ever-slower runner --- and likewise relevant elsewhere in life.

(from the translation by Ann Dunnigan)

TopicLiterature - TopicLife - TopicRunning - 2005-01-11

(correlates: DavidCopperfieldAndMissMowcher, WarAndCheckers, DeliberateSpeed, ...)