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In the following excerpt from the short story Three questions by Leo Tolstoy is a line I have questions about:

'Do you not see,' replied the hermit. 'If you had not pitied my weakness yesterday, and had not dug these beds for me, but had gone your way, that man would have attacked you, and you would have repented of not having stayed with me. So the most important time was when you were digging the beds; and I was the most important man; and to do me good was your most important business. Afterwards, when that man ran to us, the most important time was when you were attending to him, for if you had not bound up his wounds he would have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most important man, and what you did for him was your most important business. Remember then: there is only one time that is important -- Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. The most necessary man is he with whom you are, for no man knows whether he will ever have dealings with any one else: and the most important affair is, to do him good, because for that purpose alone was man sent into this life!'

I'm having two problems actually -

  • who is being referred to by the 'he' (in italics) , general public or the one with you are
  • "have dealings with anyone else" , what does this phrase actually imply ?
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The most necessary man is he with whom you are, for no man knows whether he will ever have dealings with any one else: and the most important affair is, to do him good, because for that purpose alone was man sent into this life!

He is whatever man any person happens to be with at any moment. The hermit would give this advice to any man who came to him, regardless of who he was. So Tolstoy is in effect giving this advice to you.

[H]ave dealings with anyone else means interact; have any thing to do with. To interact means "an occasion when two or more people or things communicate".

The message in this story is that the most important thing, place, person or time in your life is that which is occurring right now. It's about mindfulness, living in the moment.

(The philosophy is that the only moment that matters is the moment you exist in now, because another one may not come along again. This is underscored by the fact that the king might have died had he chosen to leave the hermit earlier.)

  • There are two he's in the bolded text, and I think the OP's confusion may come from assuming they refer to the same person. – Peter Shor Mar 14 '15 at 12:35
  • @PeterShor - if I did not explain it well, please tell me how I can improve on it. I welcome your suggestions, as I think they are helpful – anongoodnurse Mar 14 '15 at 12:47
  • yes i understood that dealings meant interact, but why can't anyone know whether he'd have dealings with "anyone else"? does this imply one might die and the person they're interacting with now is the last person they interact with? – Soham Mar 14 '15 at 13:18
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    @LucyferZedd - yes, indeed it does. The philosophy is that the only moment that matters is the moment you exist in now, because another one may not come along again. This is underscored by the fact that the king might have died had he chosen to leave the hermit earlier. – anongoodnurse Mar 14 '15 at 13:22

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