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Three questions, from Tolstoy, for mindful parenting

Go Ask Your Dad is parenting advice with a philosophical bent as one dad explores what we want out of life, for ourselves and our children, through useful paradigms and best practices. Share your insight at the CNN Parenting Facebook page.

(CNN)Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace" is one of literature's greatest hits. It also contains more than half a million words. I'll get to it eventually, possibly not before I retire.

But for now, as a parent, one of the more impactful writings of the great Russian author, thinker and pacifist is a 132-year-old short story of less than 1,600 words. Even if you're a slow reader like myself, it will take you only seven minutes to finish.

Go Ask Your Dad is parenting advice with a philosophical bent as one dad explores what we want out of life, for ourselves and our children, through useful paradigms and best practices. It considers old problems in new ways, and new problems that previous generations didn't face.

Don't have seven minutes? I'll summarize it for you in 300 words.
    Tolstoy's "The Three Questions" is a parable of an emperor who seeks out a holy man on a mountain for answers he believes will help him be a great ruler. His questions are:
    1. What is the right time to begin anything?
    2. Who are the right people to listen to?
    3. What is the most important thing to be doing at any given time?
    The old man is too good a teacher to just tell the emperor the answers. The wisdom needs to be internalized, not given away. So while the ruler patiently waits, he helps the old man dig a garden he's struggling to start.
    Hours later, they're interrupted by the distressed sounds of a third man who has been stabbed. The emperor and holy man bandage him up, saving his life. It turns out the injured man was planning to assassinate the emperor to avenge his brother's death in war. He had been waiting to attack the emperor as he came back down the mountain. Tired of waiting, the man leaves hiding, only to be ambushed and almost killed by the emperor's guards. That's when the holy man and emperor step in and save him.