I gave a speech yesterday at the Cobourg Toastmasters Open House. I spoke about the short story Two Brothers by Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. 

If we’ve talked about literature at some point, it is no surprise to you how much I am in love with the Russian writers of the nineteenth and twentieth century. I have never encountered fiction that spoke louder to my heart and dug deeper into my soul. Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Solzhenitsyn are my holy trifecta. Much of what I expect from fiction comes from these three giants. I am more apt to reread one of their great works, that to take a chance on something new.

Two Brothers is a short little story of two pages or so and it has two brothers come upon a strange rock with a message on it. The message says to come the next morning, to swim across the river, to steal a baby cub from the bear, carry it up the mountain and bring it to a house. In that house lies happiness and it is theirs for the taking.

The one brother rejects the idea saying that only fools leave messages on rocks and besides they might be interpreting it wrong. He thinks that they might drown swimming across the river, and stealing a bear cub is just utterly crazy. And who knows what the hell is up the mountain, let alone any semblance of happiness.

So the one brother swims across the river and the other stays behind. I will let you read it for yourself but the message you will be left with is most beautiful. I even recorded my speech last night for you to listen to.

There are two choices we have in life. To be comfortable and satisfied with what we have, or when prompted by signs to go and risk the tension of failure and disappointment. 

If we are to be different and have things we don’t have, we have to do things and be someone we’ve never been before. We need to write and follow a different script. We have to write a different story about ourselves.

We have to swim across that river because a rock said so and that will make all the difference in the world. Trust me, I’m halfway across now. 


Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@thepootphotographer