A Book that Changed My Life
by A Latter-day Bluestocking
Siddhartha Buddha under Bodhi tree painting
When I was in my early to mid 20s I read a book that had a profound impact on my thought and attitude towards life. That book was Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. Before the age of 30 I was in grave danger of becoming world weary. I was disheartened and had no hope for mankind or for myself. This book helped to shake the lethargy from my brain; the simple story of Siddhartha, a young man who embarks on a journey seeking enlightenment, inspired me.
The book spoke to me as no other ever had. I took away from the story that happiness and enlightenment are not achieved by external factors but by self awareness; the acceptance of the world and self, the good and the bad. I am nowhere near the enlightenment and wisdom attained by Siddhartha but I still strive towards it.
“The world was beautiful when looked at in this way––without any seeking, so simple, so childlike. The moon and the stars were beautiful, the brook, the shore, the forest and rock, the goat and the golden beetle, the flower and butterfly were beautiful. It was beautiful and pleasant to go through the world like that, so childlike, so awakened, so concerned with the immediate, without any distrust.”
When I first read this book I vowed I would read it one day to my unborn child, to pass to him, in utero, what took me decades to comprehend. I am ashamed to say I never did. That beautiful boy is, on his own, showing an interest in the story of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, and how he attained wise illumination through a contemplative life.
Perhaps, it’s not too late to read this book together, aloud.
Need to read that one. I started it briefly in high school… as much as the subject matter was interesting, the book itself didn’t grab me.
Hey, not every ‘one of the most important books ever written’ can compel everyone.
I will say strangely enough, “The Watchmen” by Moore and Gibbons was one that affected me deeply. As a budding Atheist/falling Catholic, I just found it’s description of how all things can be miraculous without a god, how believing that we simply exist without any inherent meaning isn’t nihilism.. but part of life’s great tapestry.. yeah, you could say it changed my life.
Scary as that may be.
I totally understand about books not grabbing one at any given moment…sometimes it comes down to picking up a book at the right time for its message to be passed along. For example, I’ve tried to read “Walden” countless times and can’t get pass the first few pages…it’s like watching paint dry. Although, I had no problem with reading his “The Maine Woods.” Weird, huh?
That said, “The Watchmen” is on my ‘To Read’ bookshelf. I look forward to it as I am a big fan of “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” by Alan Moore and illustrated by Kevin O’Neill. I will keep in mind your comment when I finally get to it.
Keep your eye out for a review!! Thanks for reading!
Really interesting blog, keep up the good work!
I need to read this book again. It has been decades.