Monthly Archives: November 1997
It’s Saturday afternoon, and the snow is sprinkling outside as if from a salt shaker. The trees and the ground are coated, but the streets remain clear. It’s a fireplace and pajamas day. A day for meditation, and at least for a while, a time for work.
I’m at the office (again or still?) – it truly has become my home. I arrive at my apartment at night, take off my clothes, and then am in bed within the hour. I wake up and come to work. That is my life. The question is: is it a good life? Or rather: is it the life I want?
That question leads me to the “golden path”. I wish I had my copy of Steppenwolf with me, so that I could quote from it. I am listening to Mozart now, and thoughts of the passage flow to me: there are those brief periods in life where one glimpses what appears to be a truer reality – a golden path that stretches out before mankind and after him – connecting all. I have glimpsed it when listening to Mozart, or when reading the poems of Goethe. It exhilarates me. It fills me with life. Then it is gone. And I am back to McDonald’s signs, bubble-gum music, and tabloid news. Lost in Generica.
But something has troubled me lately. I have not read it in a long while, but I remember an introduction by Hesse. He commented on how so many had loved Steppenwolf as a condemnation of bourgeois life. They had found in it an affinity and a relation to the Steppenwolf. That is fine, for that is the nature of art and its value – each person takes away their own meaning. But, then he said something about being surprised at the majority interpretation of his book, and that to him it was something different entirely. That he was not ridiculing, but praising the bourgeois.
And so I have been wondering lately about my own affinity for the novel – my empathy with its words. Does the golden path run only over mountain tops? Or does it have a buddha-nature, and exist in the mundane? I wonder. For I crave new experience. I want to love – to travel – to fly – to swim – to fall – to drown. But at the same time, there is so much of me that is content. That enjoys these snowy days in the office. That feels pleasure and pride in accomplishments that do not change the world, or perhaps even better it. And as I grow older, I find more zen-pleasure than I used to, but in that pleasure I sense a creeping contentment that both titillates and terrifies me.
Is it a good life? Is it the life I want? I wonder if those questions can ever be answered, or even understood.
The fact that you question. That you don’t know who you are. Or what you want to, or should be. That you seek. That you don’t just accept. That separates you. It makes you special, but not alone. The metaphors I enjoy most for the search are Herman Hesse’s: he refers to it as the Journey East or the Golden Road. Hesse has the ability to touch my core – to titillate my soul. He does it in flashes. It is interesting: I don’t really enjoy the novel or the story as a whole, but there is language in Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund, & The Journey East that I return to often. He is like Emerson in his ability to touch me on an intellectually emotional level. I suspect that you are on the Journey East and that you have had glimpses of the Golden Road. And so you have uncertainties with many aspects of your bourgeois life. And you know that ignorance is not bliss, and are glad that Man was expelled from the Garden.
(From an email to a friend)