What We Live By
What We Live By
  • Kim Hong Taeeun
  • 승인 2017.04.10 19:47
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What dwells in men?  What is not given to men?  What do men live by?  God sends the angel Michael down to Earth to find answers to these three questions.  However, these very same questions are the ones Leo Tolstoy invites his readers to explore in his book.  While the answers to these questions might seem straightforward, today’s society reveals that people no longer live their lives by these three simple responses.  Leo Tolstoy left humanity a heartwarming message that makes all who read it reflect upon what’s truly most important in life in his book ‘What Men Live By’. 



What Made Michael Smile?

Simon, a poor yet humble shoemaker, is unable to purchase the sheep-skin his wife has asked him to get to make winter coats because he simply cannot afford it.  Upset, he spends the cash on vodka.  Returning home, his footsteps become heavier and heavier.  He slowly drinks himself drunk and collapses in front of a church.  When he wakes up, he finds a man wearing no clothes.  He hesitates approaching the naked man, but soon decides not to leave him outside alone in the cold of winter.  Simon helps the naked man up and brings him to his home.  This is Simon’s first meeting with Michael.  Upon seeing her husband returning home, not with sheep-skin, but instead with a beggar, Matrena expresses her anger towards her husband.  Simon, however, persuades her to be understanding, so she invites Michael, the beggar, into their home for dinner.  Michael smiles for the first time.  
After this initial smile, Simon and Matrena are unable to see Michael’s smile for a long time.  Then one day, a nobleman comes to Simon’s shop and asks Simon to make him a pair of boots.  He is quick to point out that the leather he would like Simon to use is extremely expensive.  Michael looks closely at the man and then smiles for the second time.  He tells Simon not to worry, but to take the man’s order and start working on the leather boots.  The finished product does not resemble anything like a pair of boots; instead, they look like slippers worn by people on their death bed.  Simon panics at the thought of the man’s reaction, thinking to himself “life is over now”, but at that same moment, the nobleman’s servant hurries into Simon’s shop.  He tells Simon that his master has died and to make slippers instead of boots.  
Many days pass since the nobleman and his servant’s visit to the shop, and again Michael does not smile.  Eventually, Simon is visited by a woman and her twin daughters.  The woman requests Simon to make shoes for her daughters.  Simon notices that one of the daughters has difficulty in walking.  He asks the mother about it, and she details a long and touching story.  Michael looks up at the ceiling and smiles.


We Need Love 

Until Michael’s arrival, Simon and Matrena lived an unhappy life, blaming their standard of living on being poor, but after meeting Michael, they are surprised at their ability to love and care for others.  They come to the realization that it was not money they sought to change to their life, but love for others.  Readers are introduced to the lessons of life and love by Leo Tolstoy.  He probably hoped all his readers would realize mercy is in all of us and that love is the most important factor for sustaining life.  People should not fret about an unknown future or be overly materialistic.  We should see each other through caring eyes and love.  This simple act will turn our modernindividualistic society into a much humble place in which to live in.


What Men Live By


Leo Tolstoy




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