To read his works often entails utilization of descriptive metaphors, such as “tackle”, or “spend the summer” doing it, or even, “It has taken me a year to reach the midpoint”. To have read Tolstoy’s major works is a kind of initiation into the upper echelons of cultivated sophistication; how many fakes and phonies there are, can only be guessed at, but some would estimate that nearly half of those claiming to have read “War and Peace” or “Anna Karenina” either failed to complete the rite of passage, skimmed or skipped major portions of either or both, or simply studied carefully the Cliff Notes in the secluded corner of nefarious midnight travails.
But consider the original, unedited version; what the Editor of such works must have had to contend with, just to get it sorted, compiled and drafted into a coherence of acceptability — all before the time of computers, cut-and-paste buttons, and leaving aside the untenable temperament of the author for whom suggested changes meant a challenge to a duel and likely emitting as a response a stream of unedited vitriol spiced with torrents of epithets unheard of in polite company. But even Tolstoy must have known that his own works required further care and attention, like a child soiled and helpless in self-care; that no form of Art — regardless of its egomaniacal source and unmatched brilliance of the narrative creativity — could be stomached without correction, crafting and splicing of untethered verbosity.
Tolstoy, left unedited, would have required greater metaphors than those we already adopt, and perhaps would have been thrown into the dustbin of untranslated works stored in the vast warehouses of uninterpreted voices. The parody to a life lived, of course, reflects a parallelism which everyone recognizes, but few undertake. How one lives a life, also, requires constant perfecting, further editing, and persistent splicing. The unedited version of any life would be left with an undisciplined mess, unfettered calamity and unconstrained egomania of purposeless vacuity. Meaning can always be discovered in every life, but it is the cultivated perfection of a disciplined self which constitutes the essence of human uniqueness.
But there are interruptions in living, beyond the control of one’s will and fated determinism; a medical condition is one example, and for the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal job, preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application becomes of utmost importance. However, one must take care in preparing, formulating and filing an effective SF 3112A — Applicant’s Statement of Disability — as so many people believe that the Tolstoy format of an unedited diatribe is as effective as the abridged version of a work of Joyce.
There is always a balance and a “middle ground”, whether in Life, Art, or in the effective submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset. Art often reflects Life; Life is too often lived in an unconstrained fashion; but in either case, in preparing an OPM Disability Retirement application, it is important to recognize that Tolstoy unedited is as onerous an undertaking as a Federal Disability Retirement application left unfettered by purpose, application, and the careful compilation of meeting the criteria of law and life itself.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire