The reward of reading War and Peace was much more than being able say I got through it. The reward of reading is always the experience of deep thought. Having viewed both a movie version and a made-for-TV version, I had an idea of the overall story, but a reader not only has the creative privilege of designing the sets, the costumes, and actors, the reader gets to contemplate the philosophical concepts embedded throughout. And War and Peace certainly is chock full of philosophical meanderings. What does it mean to exist as a human? What is power and what is free will? What are truth, beauty or love? Did God design it all? This book is so much more than the story.
The story of War and Peace is basically a love story, which surprised me! Although there are vivid battle scenes of the War of 1812, descriptions of society a hundred years before Downton Abbey (and the production values I created in my mind were ever so lovely), and financial ruin during times of duress, the overarching theme is love. The characters desperately seek the meaning of life through encounters with power, money problems, death, and the contemplation of free will. Spoiler ALERT! Love, it turns out, is the ultimate meaning. The Beatles were right! Love is all you need.
But it really isn’t that simple. Stating that love is the answer is like showing a picture of water and talking about how water is necessary for life. You have to drink it to experience it. You have to go through the journey for yourself. The experience of reading War and Peace is a far cry from the type of reading we get on the web as we scroll frantically through tidbits of thought. The experience has become a part of me, unlike the countless photos, memes, and comments delivered throughout every day through “disposable” media.
A book is a container of thought. Mental nourishment is as important as physical nourishment. Your grandmother knew that you are what you eat. Now I am sounding like a librarian! Everyone should read.
Well, that too isn’t really that simple. I agree with Nicholas Carr’s suggestion (the reason I read War and Peace as stated in Part 1) that our brains are changing due to our constant connection to the Internet. I recognize it in my own life and the lives of those around me- always leaving the present moment to check in online with our devices. Maybe I should summarize by saying, all you need is love, a good book, and an effort to unplug occasionally. War and Peace exemplified all three and, in Part 3, I just may share an example or two.