There are those who seek “inspirational quotes” and platitudes as balm, something to get them through the day.  Great if it works for them.  For me, not so much.
So often I feel that I exist within an artifice.  A manufactured world of paperwork, cubicles, reports, and “direct service hours” that seems to draw its energy from the act of knocking one onto his/her dorsal side.  This can’t be real, what’s “really real” anyway.  Then again, what is “real?”  I know that I am not alone in these questions.  So since the quotes don’t do it for me, I seek philosophy. 

Spawned by a philosopher and brother to one as well, I’m not exactly foreign to the discipline.  I have read many philosophers, including Nietzsche, Voltaire, The Stranger by Camus, and I would even toss Burroughs in there as well.  Even when I encounter writing that I disagree with I still manage to glean something useful from it.  All the fragments fuse together to compose the greater whole and that is what has led me back to Siddhartha.

I read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse back in undergrad when we were required to take a course on India and China.  The novel’s titular character is a young Indian man who lived during the time of Buddha.  In the first chapter, Siddhartha leaves his comfortable home and sets out with his friend Govinda in search of enlightenment.  Siddhartha has all manner of experiences, worldly, carnal, and spiritual and in the end attains enlightenment.  This state of enlightenment arrives not through education, nor through experience, nor the acquisition of wealth.  It comes as a sum total of all of those things and more.  In a way, “any road can get you there.”

Why now?  Why has this novel, a book I once thought long since buried in the heaping wreckage of my past, come the fore?  Hesse said that in writing Siddhartha, he wanted to “cure his sickness with life.”  Maybe that’s what I’m trying to do as well.  Though my current existence is dreary, confining, and unrelenting, it gives me hope to believe that such a forced march through a sharp and jagged-walled tunnel may be just what helps to bring about true knowledge.  That, quite honestly, works better for me than any platitude possibly could.

Do yourself a favor and order Siddhartha on Amazon.

In an interesting aside, Wikipedia reports (and if you can't trust them, then who can you trust? heh.) that there was a 1971film version of Siddhartha in which Govinda was played by Don Johnson.
I’m simultaneously intrigued and repulsed.