Wednesday, 11 March 2009

A lot about me, a little about the book (maybe not even...)

In one of those delicious synchronicities that life has in store for anyone of us who pays a little attention, at the time Eli announced Siddharta would be the starter in the Book Club’s menu, a new flatmate moved into my house. What he brought with him when he moved in, along with a selection of French delicacies and a jailable amount of duty-free tobacco, was a serious addiction to Funk. Groovy Funk. Dirty Funk. Kinky Funk.

One track he played in particular stuck to me like a vacuum-cleaner salesman to a well off widow. It is from Funkadelic and it goes like this:

Free your mind and you ass will follow
The kingdom of heaven is within
Open up your funky mind and you can fly
Free your mind and your ass will follow
The kingdom of heaven is within.

Now wait a minute, I know that the apparent similarity in the choice of words does not necessarily indicate a consistency in Hesse’s and George Clinton’s message, but it got me thinking. Especially since the bridge in the song goes like this:
“Freedom is free of the need to be free”

Now here we are. That’s where I draw the bunny out of the hat and the parallel with what Eli was pointing out in her previous post. Time is unreal, truth is relative and freedom is more of a surrender than a fight. That’s what Clinton says to me. And as I hear Clinton encouraging me to loosen the grip of my tiny fists on my precious idea of freedom, Hesse whispers in my ear that “knowing has no greater enemy that wanting to know”, and I’ve got to let go of yet another human attribute: systematic intellectualization. Pheeeew. So to reach enlightenment and the “heaven within”, so George and Herman say, I’ve got to stop fighting AND stop learning, two words that were so far occupying a prominent position on the black board of my minuscule existence. Tough one.

Now pardon my tendency to over-simplify, I know Siddharta/Hesse is not encouraging us to reach nirvana by becoming mindless, ball-scratching monkeys. But still, I find it hard to agree to let go of every sort of accumulation, especially the accumulation of knowledge. That seems like a high price to pay, even for enlightenment…
Thoughts anyone??


  1. Comment on its way about this excellent conundrum when my mind is functioning...but meanwhile it can still spew out emotions. The current spew being: Lettie, I love you! Thankyou!!

    Incidentally, I think the freedom that lies outside of whatever can be reached through 'fighting for it' and the intellectual understanding of it might be conceived on a subtle, spiritual level. Siddhartha gets the opportunities to climb his way towards 'enlightenment' through intellectual stuff, through asceticism and through letting the sensory experiences of the world fill and guide him. I think the point is that he becomes aware of non-duality; that everything is one, so the transcendent freedom we're fighting for already exists within us. I heard it expressed nicely somewhere: 'the self within the cosmos and the cosmos within the self'
    *bring out the incense, baby*
    If this is what Hesse is getting at, and good on him for trying to espouse it in words, despite even saying in 'Siddhartha' that 'wisdom cannot be communicated', then he's chiming with the Hindu philosophy of Advaita, about which i only fumble abround theoretically so shouldn't say any more about, except that it would espouse jnana yoga and a couple other of the eight limbs :)

    Having said that, i like that the only philosophy Hesse really rams home isn't this, but instead that we should intuit what wisdom/freedom (not sure how synonymous they should be...) are from our own experiences, no-one else's. I think that co-exists nicely with not sitting down to systematically teach ourselves how to get them. And if it is also within us already, as our non-dual self, if you're going to go with the Advaita Vedantan reading of the text or pick out the very explicit choice of Hesse's to advocate something resembling this ('during deep meditation it is possible to dispel time, to see simultaneously all the past, present and future, and then everything is good, everything is perfect, everything is Brahman'), then i could see how we could crawl towards finding in us
    *relights incense*
    a freedom that's neither fought for nor which has to be systematically discovered through our exhausted lil'intellects.

  2. Sorry, i dont read through stuff before hitting 'post'. What it's meant to say is 'the point is that he ultimately becomes completely radiant with non-duality.

    jeez that sounds poncey.

  3. I've tried listening to the canal in Manchester but I don't think I'm enlightened enough.