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when I have learned this, to render aid on all possible occasions to the
people, with my hands, and my feet, and my brain, and my heart, and with
every thing to which the people should present a claim."

And therefore I say, that for the man of our circle, in addition to not
lying to himself or to others, repentance is also necessary, and that he
should scrape from himself that pride which has sprung up in us, in our
culture, in our refinements, in our talents; and that he should confess
that he is not a benefactor of the people and a distinguished man, who
does not refuse to share with the people his useful acquirements, but
that he should confess himself to be a thoroughly guilty, corrupt, and
good-for-nothing man, who desires to reform himself and not to behave
benevolently towards the people, but simply to cease wounding and
insulting them.

I often hear the questions of good young men who sympathize with the
renunciatory part of my writings, and who ask, "Well, and what then shall
I do? What am I to do, now that I have finished my course in the
university, or in some other institution, in order that I may be of use?"
Young men ask this, and in the depths of their soul it is already decided
that the education which they have received constitutes their privilege
and that they desire to serve the people precisely by means of thus
superiority. And hence, one thing which they will in no wise do, is to
bear themselves honestly and critically towards that which they call
their culture, and ask themselves, are those qualities which they call
their culture good or bad? If they will do this, they will infallibly be
led to see the necessity of renouncing their culture, and the necessity
of beginning to learn all over again; and this is the one indispensable
thing. They can in no wise solve the problem, "What to do?" because this
question does not stand before them as it should stand. The question
must stand thus: "In what manner am I, a helpless, useless man, who,
owing to the misfortune of my conditions, have wasted my best years of
study in conning the scientific Talmud which corrupts soul and body, to
correct this mistake, and learn to serve the people?" But it presents
itself to them thus: "How am I, a man who has acquired so much very fine
learning, to turn this very fine learning to the use of the people?" And
such a man will never answer the question, "What is to be done?" until he
repents. And repentance is not terrible, just as truth is not terrible,
and it is equally joyful and fruitful. It is only necessary to accept
the truth wholly, and to repent wholly, in order to understand that no
one possesses any rights, privileges, or peculiarities in the matter of
this life of ours, but that there are no ends or bounds to obligation,
and that a man's first and most indubitable duty is to take part in the
struggle with nature for his own life and for the lives of others.

And this confession of a man's obligation constitutes the gist of the
third answer to the question, "What is to be done?"

I tried not to lie to myself: I tried to cast out from myself the remains
of my false conceptions of the importance of my education and talents,
and to repent; but on the way to a decision of the question, "What to
do?" a fresh difficulty arose. There are so many different occupations,
that an indication was necessary as to the precise one which was to be
adopted. And the answer to this question was furnished me by sincere
repentance for the evil in which I had lived.

"What to do? Precisely what to do?" all ask, and that is what I also
asked so long as, under the influence of my exalted idea of any own
importance, I did not perceive that my first and unquestionable duty was
to feed myself, to clothe myself, to furnish my own fuel, to do my own
building, and, by so doing, to serve others, because, ever since the
would has existed, the first and indubitable duty of every man has
consisted and does consist in this.

In fact, no matter what a man may have assumed to be his
vocation, - whether it be to govern people, to defend his
fellow-countrymen, to divine service, to instruct others, to invent means
to heighten the pleasures of life, to discover the laws of the world, to
incorporate eternal truths in artistic representations, - the duty of a
reasonable man is to take part in the struggle with nature, for the
sustenance of his own life and of that of others. This obligation is the
first of all, because what people need most of all is their life; and
therefore, in order to defend and instruct the people, and render their
lives more agreeable, it is requisite to preserve that life itself, while
my refusal to share in the struggle, my monopoly of the labors of others,
is equivalent to annihilation of the lives of others. And, therefore, it
is not rational to serve the lives of men by annihilating the lives of
men; and it is impossible to say that I am serving men, when, by my life,
I am obviously injuring them.

A man's obligation to struggle with nature for the acquisition of the
means of livelihood will always be the first and most unquestionable of
all obligations, because this obligation is a law of life, departure from
which entails the inevitable punishment of either bodily or mental
annihilation of the life of man. If a man living alone excuses himself
from the obligation of struggling with nature, he is immediately
punished, in that his body perishes. But if a man excuses himself from
this obligation by making other people fulfil it for him, then also he is
immediately punished by the annihilation of his mental life; that is to
say, of the life which possesses rational thought.

In this one act, man receives - if the two things are to be separated - full
satisfaction of the bodily and spiritual demands of his nature. The
feeding, clothing, and taking care of himself and his family, constitute
the satisfaction of the bodily demands and requirements; and doing the
same for other people, constitutes the satisfaction of his spiritual
requirements. Every other employment of man is only legal when it is
directed to the satisfaction of this very first duty of man; for the
fulfilment of this duty constitutes the whole life of man.

I had been so turned about by my previous life, this first and
indubitable law of God or of nature is so concealed in our sphere of
society, that the fulfilment of this law seemed to me strange, terrible,
even shameful; as though the fulfilment of an eternal, unquestionable
law, and not the departure from it, can be terrible, strange, and

At first it seemed to me that the fulfilment of this matter required some
preparation, arrangement or community of men, holding similar views, - the
consent of one's family, life in the country; it seemed to me disgraceful
to make a show of myself before people, to undertake a thing so improper
in our conditions of existence, as bodily toil, and I did not know how to
set about it. But it was only necessary for me to understand that this
is no exclusive occupation which requires to be invented and arranged
for, but that this employment was merely a return from the false position
in which I found myself, to a natural one; was only a rectification of
that lie in which I was living. I had only to recognize this fact, and
all these difficulties vanished. It was not in the least necessary to
make preparations and arrangements, and to await the consent of others,
for, no matter in what position I had found myself, there had always been
people who had fed, clothed and warmed me, in addition to themselves; and
everywhere, under all conditions, I could do the same for myself and for
them, if I had the time and the strength. Neither could I experience
false shame in an unwonted occupation, no matter how surprising it might
be to people, because, through not doing it, I had already experienced
not false but real shame.

And when I had reached this confession and the practical deduction from
it, I was fully rewarded for not having quailed before the deductions of
reason, and for following whither they led me. On arriving at this
practical deduction, I was amazed at the ease and simplicity with which
all the problems which had previously seemed to me so difficult and so
complicated, were solved.

To the question, "What is it necessary to do?" the most indubitable
answer presented itself: first of all, that which it was necessary for me
to do was, to attend to my own samovar, my own stove, my own water, my
own clothing; to every thing that I could do for myself. To the
question, "Will it not seem strange to people if you do this?" it
appeared that this strangeness lasted only a week, and after the lapse of
that week, it would have seemed strange had I returned to my former
conditions of life. With regard to the question, "Is it necessary to
organize this physical labor, to institute an association in the country,
on my land?" it appeared that nothing of the sort was necessary; that
labor, if it does not aim at the acquisition of all possible leisure, and
the enjoyment of the labor of others, - like the labor of people bent on
accumulating money, - but if it have for its object the satisfaction of
requirements, will itself be drawn from the city to the country, to the
land, where this labor is the most fruitful and cheerful. But it is not
requisite to institute any association, because the man who labors,
naturally and of himself, attaches himself to the existing association of
laboring men.

To the question, whether this labor would not monopolize all my time, and
deprive me of those intellectual pursuits which I love, to which I am
accustomed, and which, in my moments of self-conceit, I regard as not
useless to others? I received a most unexpected reply. The energy of my
intellectual activity increased, and increased in exact proportion with
bodily application, while freeing itself from every thing superfluous. It
appeared that by dedicating to physical toil eight hours, that half of
the day which I had formerly passed in the oppressive state of a struggle
with _ennui_, eight hours remained to me, of which only five of
intellectual activity, according to my terms, were necessary to me. For
it appeared, that if I, a very voluminous writer, who had done nothing
for nearly forty years except write, and who had written three hundred
printed sheets; - if I had worked during all those forty years at ordinary
labor with the working-people, then, not reckoning winter evenings and
leisure days, if I had read and studied for five hours every day, and had
written a couple of pages only on holidays (and I have been in the habit
of writing at the rate of one printed sheet a day), then I should have
written those three hundred sheets in fourteen years. The fact seemed
startling: yet it is the most simple arithmetical calculation, which can
be made by a seven-year-old boy, but which I had not been able to make up
to this time. There are twenty-four hours in the day; if we take away
eight hours, sixteen remain. If any man engaged in intellectual
occupations devote five hours every day to his occupation, he will
accomplish a fearful amount. And what is to be done with the remaining
eleven hours?

It proved that physical labor not only does not exclude the possibility
of mental activity, but that it improves its quality, and encourages it.

In answer to the question, whether this physical toil does not deprive me
of many innocent pleasures peculiar to man, such as the enjoyment of the
arts, the acquisition of learning, intercourse with people, and the
delights of life in general, it turned out exactly the reverse: the more
intense the labor, the more nearly it approached what is considered the
coarsest agricultural toil, the more enjoyment and knowledge did I gain,
and the more did I come into close and loving communion with men, and the
more happiness did I derive from life.

In answer to the question (which I have so often heard from persons not
thoroughly sincere), as to what result could flow from so insignificant a
drop in the sea of sympathy as my individual physical labor in the sea of
labor ingulfing me, I received also the most satisfactory and unexpected
of answers. It appeared that all I had to do was to make physical labor
the habitual condition of my life, and the majority of my false, but
precious, habits and my demands, when physically idle, fell away from me
at once of their own accord, without the slightest exertion on my part.
Not to mention the habit of turning day into night and _vice versa_, my
habits connected with my bed, with my clothing, with conventional
cleanliness, - which are downright impossible and oppressive with physical
labor, - and my demands as to the quality of my food, were entirely
changed. In place of the dainty, rich, refined, complicated,
highly-spiced food, to which I had formerly inclined, the most simple
viands became needful and most pleasing of all to me, - cabbage-soup,
porridge, black bread, and tea _v prikusku_. {238} So that, not to
mention the influence upon me of the example of the simple
working-people, who are content with little, with whom I came in contact
in the course of my bodily toil, my very requirements underwent a change
in consequence of my toilsome life; so that my drop of physical labor in
the sea of universal labor became larger and larger, in proportion as I
accustomed myself to, and appropriated, the habits of the laboring
classes; in proportion, also, to the success of my labor, my demands for
labor from others grew less and less, and my life naturally, without
exertion or privations, approached that simple existence of which I could
not even dream without fulfilling the law of labor.

It proved that my dearest demands from life, namely, my demands for
vanity, and diversion from _ennui_, arose directly from my idle life.
There was no place for vanity, in connection with physical labor; and no
diversions were needed, since my time was pleasantly occupied, and, after
my fatigue, simple rest at tea over a book, or in conversation with my
fellows, was incomparably more agreeable than theatres, cards, conceits,
or a large company, - all which things are needed in physical idleness,
and which cost a great deal.

In answer to the question, Would not this unaccustomed toil ruin that
health which is indispensable in order to render service to the people
possible? it appeared, in spite of the positive assertions of noted
physicians, that physical exertion, especially at my age, might have the
most injurious consequences (but that Swedish gymnastics, the massage
treatment, and so on, and other expedients intended to take the place of
the natural conditions of man's life, were better), that the more intense
the toil, the stronger, more alert, more cheerful, and more kindly did I
feel. Thus it undoubtedly appeared, that, just as all those cunning
devices of the human mind, newspapers, theatres, concerts, visits, balls,
cards, journals, romances, are nothing else than expedients for
maintaining the spiritual life of man outside his natural conditions of
labor for others, - just so all the hygienic and medical devices of the
human mind for the preparation of food, drink, lodging, ventilation,
heating, clothing, medicine, water, massage, gymnastics, electric, and
other means of healing, - all these clever devices are merely an expedient
to sustain the bodily life of man removed from its natural conditions of
labor. It turned out that all these devices of the human mind for the
agreeable arrangement of the physical existence of idle persons are
precisely analogous to those artful contrivances which people might
invent for the production in vessels hermetically sealed, by means of
mechanical arrangements, of evaporation, and plants, of the air best
fitted for breathing, when all that is needed is to open the window. All
the inventions of medicine and hygiene for persons of our sphere are much
the same as though a mechanic should hit upon the idea of heating a steam-
boiler which was not working, and should shut all the valves so that the
boiler should not burst. Only one thing is needed, instead of all these
extremely complicated devices for pleasure, for comfort, and for medical
and hygienic preparations, intended to save people from their spiritual
and bodily ailments, which swallow up so much labor, - to fulfil the law
of life; to do that which is proper not only to man, but to the animal;
to fire off the charge of energy taken win in the shape of food, by
muscular exertion; to speak in plain language, to earn one's bread. Those
who do not work should not eat, or they should earn as much as they have

And when I clearly comprehended all this, it struck me as ridiculous.
Through a whole series of doubts and searchings, I had arrived, by a long
course of thought, at this remarkable truth: if a man has eyes, it is
that he may see with them; if he has ears, that he may hear; and feet,
that he may walk; and hands and back, that he may labor; and that if a
man will not employ those members for that purpose for which they are
intended, it will be the worse for him.

I came to this conclusion, that, with us privileged people, the same
thing has happened which happened with the horses of a friend of mine.
His steward, who was not a lover of horses, nor well versed in them, on
receiving his master's orders to place the best horses in the stable,
selected them from the stud, placed them in stalls, and fed and watered
them; but fearing for the valuable steeds, he could not bring himself to
trust them to any one, and he neither rode nor drove them, nor did he
even take them out. The horses stood there until they were good for
nothing. The same thing has happened with us, but with this difference:
that it was impossible to deceive the horses in any way, and they were
kept in bonds to prevent their getting out; but we are kept in an
unnatural position that is equally injurious to us, by deceits which have
entangled us, and which hold us like chains.

We have arranged for ourselves a life that is repugnant both to the moral
and the physical nature of man, and all the powers of our intelligence we
concentrate upon assuring man that this is the most natural life
possible. Every thing which we call culture, - our sciences, art, and the
perfection of the pleasant thing's of life, - all these are attempts to
deceive the moral requirements of man; every thing that is called hygiene
and medicine, is an attempt to deceive the natural physical demands of
human nature. But these deceits have their bounds, and we advance to
them. "If such be the real human life, then it is better not to live at
all," says the reigning and extremely fashionable philosophy of
Schopenhauer and Hartmann. If such is life, 'tis better for the coming
generation not to live," say corrupt medical science and its newly
devised means to that end.

In the Bible, it is laid down as the law of man: "In the sweat of thy
face shalt thou eat bread, and in sorrow thou shalt bring forth
children;" but "_nous avons change tout ca_," as Moliere's character
says, when expressing himself with regard to medicine, and asserting that
the liver was on the left side. We have changed all that. Men need not
work in order to eat, and women need not bear children.

A ragged peasant roams the Krapivensky district. During the war he was
an agent for the purchase of grain, under an official of the commissary
department. On being brought in contact with the official, and seeing
his luxurious life, the peasant lost his mind, and thought that he might
get along without work, like gentlemen, and receive proper support from
the Emperor. This peasant now calls himself "the Most Serene Warrior,
Prince Blokhin, purveyor of war supplies of all descriptions." He says
of himself that he has "passed through all the ranks," and that when he
shall have served out his term in the army, he is to receive from the
Emperor an unlimited bank account, clothes, uniforms, horses, equipages,
tea, pease and servants, and all sorts of luxuries. This man is
ridiculous in the eyes of many, but to me the significance of his madness
is terrible. To the question, whether he does not wish to work, he
always replies proudly: "I am much obliged. The peasants will attend to
all that." When you tell him that the peasants do not wish to work,
either, he answers: "It is not difficult for the peasant."

He generally talks in a high-flown style, and is fond of verbal
substantives. "Now there is an invention of machinery for the
alleviation of the peasants," he says; "there is no difficulty for them
in that." When he is asked what he lives for, he replies, "To pass the
time." I always look on this man as on a mirror. I behold in him myself
and all my class. To pass through all the ranks (_tchini_) in order to
live for the purpose of passing the time, and to receive an unlimited
bank account, while the peasants, for whom this is not difficult, because
of the invention of machinery, do the whole business, - this is the
complete formula of the idiotic creed of the people of our sphere in

When we inquire precisely what we are to do, surely, we ask nothing, but
merely assert - only not in such good faith as the Most Serene Prince
Blokhin, who has been promoted through all ranks, and lost his mind - that
we do not wish to do any thing.

He who will reflect for a moment cannot ask thus, because, on the one
hand, every thing that he uses has been made, and is made, by the hands
of men; and, on the other side, as soon as a healthy man has awakened and
eaten, the necessity of working with feet and hands and brain makes
itself felt. In order to find work and to work, he need only not hold
back: only a person who thinks work disgraceful - like the lady who
requests her guest not to take the trouble to open the door, but to wait
until she can call a man for this purpose - can put to himself the
question, what he is to do.

The point does not lie in inventing work, - you can never get through all
the work that is to be done for yourself and for others, - but the point
lies in weaning one's self from that criminal view of life in accordance
with which I eat and sleep for my own pleasure; and in appropriating to
myself that just and simple view with which the laboring man grows up and
lives, - that man is, first of all, a machine, which loads itself with
food in order to sustain itself, and that it is therefore disgraceful,
wrong, and impossible to eat and not to work; that to eat and not to work
is the most impious, unnatural, and, therefore, dangerous position, in
the nature of the sin of Sodom. Only let this acknowledgement be made,
and there will be work; and work will always be joyous and satisfying to
both spiritual and bodily requirements.

The matter presented itself to me thus: The day is divided for every man,
by food itself, into four parts, or four stints, as the peasants call it:
(1) before breakfast; (2) from breakfast until dinner; (3) from dinner
until four o'clock; (4) from four o'clock until evening.

A man's employment, whatever it may be that he feels a need for in his
own person, is also divided into four categories: (1) the muscular
employment of power, labor of the hands, feet, shoulders, back, - hard
labor, from which you sweat; (2) the employment of the fingers and
wrists, the employment of artisan skill; (3) the employment of the mind
and imagination; (4) the employment of intercourse with others.

The benefits which man enjoys are also divided into four categories.
Every man enjoys, in the first place, the product of hard labor, - grain,
cattle, buildings, wells, ponds, and so forth; in the second place, the
results of artisan toil, - clothes, boots, utensils, and so forth; in the
third place, the products of mental activity, - science, art; and, in the
forth place, established intercourse between people.

And it struck me, that the best thing of all would be to arrange the
occupations of the day in such a manner as to exercise all four of man's
capacities, and myself produce all these four sorts of benefits which men
make use of, so that one portion of the day, the first, should be
dedicated to hard labor; the second, to intellectual labor; the third, to
artisan labor; and the forth, to intercourse with people. It struck me,
that only then would that false division of labor, which exists in our
society, be abrogated, and that just division of labor established, which
does not destroy man's happiness.

I, for example, have busied myself all my life with intellectual labor. I

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