“I can think, I can wait, and I can fast.”

11

Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha: A Novel is a relatively short book (~150 pages), but every page is a masterpiece. Don’t let the shortness fool you; it took me a lot of time to finish (read and digest) the content. It’s challenging to put the experience in words. Mere words cannot capture the wisdom.

At the outset, this is a story of a person who goes on a mission to find the truth. Some call this a quest for life’s meaning. Siddhartha, the protagonist, defies all conventional methods like teachings and gurus. By doing so, the search leads him to many places. On one occasion, when asked for what he knows, Siddhartha responds, “I can think, I can wait, I can fast.” How many of us can say that with conviction? That, we can think independently, and will not get succumbed to instant gratification, and can fast (many health reasons, apparently).

Knowledge is something you can learn, but not wisdom. A programming language, driving a car, and building a house are examples of knowledge. You can gain expertise based on what you already know: building blocks of learning. Wisdom cannot be taught it can only be lived and experienced. One has to unlearn first. When you try to put it in words, it’s hard not to steer into one or the other ideologies. An ideology and truth cannot co-exist.

I’m not going to throw in any spoilers. This book is not a thriller kind, but I will just leave it there.

I read this book a few years ago for the first time. Maybe I did not even finish it back then. Now, when I picked up again, after repeated recommendations from people I trust, the experience is so different. It depends on what life experiences you have gone through, I guess. A book or any art form is personal and has to resonate with you. For the writing of this kind, though, you will have to suspend the conditioning you have accumulated. Worthy read!

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