Often regarded as one of the greatest writers ever, Leo Tolstoy spent fifteen years collecting quotes, daily thoughts, and insight from inspirational masterminds such as Epictetus, Seneca, Socrates, Confucius, Marcus Aurelius, and Lao-Tzu to name a few.
These soul nourishing daily nuggets of wisdom were packed into Tolstoy’s book, A Calendar of Wisdom, which he deemed his most important contribution to humanity.
I felt that I have been elevated to great spiritual and moral heights by communication with the best and wisest people whose books I read and whose thoughts I selected.
What can be more precious than to communicate every day with the wisest men of the world?
The book indeed makes you feel just a little bit better with every turn of the page. Instead of being blasted by the latest toxic celebrity and political scandals in my newsfeed, I took in inspirational messages about life from Marcus Aurelius:
You should live your life as if you are ready to say good-bye to it at any moment, as if the time left you is some pleasant surprise.
And finding greatness from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
If there is something great in you, it will not appear on your first call. It will not appear and come to you easily, without any work and effort.
While no digital devices or social media streams existed in the early 1900s, Tolstoy explains how he removed himself from media distractions in favor of a relentless focus on content gathering from the greatest thinkers around the world:
For two months I did not read anything else, neither newspapers nor magazines, and I felt so good. I became more and more astonished by the ignorance, and especially by the cultural, moral ignorance of our society. All our education should be directed to the accumulation of the cultural heritage of our ancestors, the best thinkers of the world.
Here are some carefully selected highlights from A Calendar of Wisdom that are sure to tickle the soul:
The most outstanding gifts can be destroyed by idleness. -Michel De Montaigne
A huge amount of knowledge is accumulated at present. Soon our abilities will be too weak, and our lives too short, to study this knowledge. We have vast treasures of knowledge at our disposal but after we study them, we often do not use them at all. It would be better not to have this burden, this unnecessary knowledge, which we do not really need. -Immanuel Kant
There is no higher blessing for a person than to do charitable work for the benefit and well-being of others. -Lucy Malory
Seek to learn constantly while you live; do not wait in the faith that old age by itself will bring you wisdom. -Solon
We can understand wisdom in three ways: first, by meditation; this is the most noble way. Secondly, by being influenced by someone or following someone; this the easiest way. Third is the way of experience; this the most difficult way. -Confucius
There is a great advantage in humility and silence. Only a few people in the world are truly humble. -Lao-Tzu
What a great treasure can be hidden in a small, selected library! A company of the wisest and the most deserving people from all the civilized countries of the world, for thousands of years, can make the results of their studies and their wisdom available to us. The thought which they might not even reveal to their best friends is written here in clear words for us, people from another century. Yes, we should be grateful for the best books, for the best spiritual achievements in our lives. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Tolstoy sprinkles in his own thoughts throughout the book. It’s fascinating how his call to us so long ago has relevance in this day and age—a time when distractions and noise surround us. It’s as if he’s issuing a plea for humanity to bring back calmness, simplicity, and introspection.
Do not be afraid to get rid of things which distract your attention.
One hour of honest, serious thinking is more precious than weeks spent in empty talks.
What is important is not the quantity of your knowledge, but its quality. You can know many things without knowing that which is most important.
Complete outer calmness is impossible. But when there are some calm periods, we should appreciate them and make them last longer. This is the time when useful thoughts appear; they become stronger and guide us in life.
Real goodness is always simple. Simplicity is so attractive and so profitable that it is strange that so few people lead truly simple lives.
We regret losing a purse full of money, but a good thought which has come to us, which we’ve heard or read, a thought which we should have remembered and applied to our life, which could have improved the world—we lose this thought and promptly forget about it, and we do not regret it, though it is more precious than millions.
The greatest changes in the world are made slowly and gradually, not with eruptions and revolutions. The same things happen in one’s spiritual life.
Use A Calendar of Wisdom to flip to any day of the year for some quick inspiration and timeless lessons from the wisest philosophers the world has ever known. Share your favorite quotes and thoughts with us.