Uh-oh! I’ve strayed from my list!
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse:
I’d read this book years ago, on a ferry-boat on my way to Bremerton and back (which is ironic, as a key character in the book was a ferryman). Took me about 3 hours to finish it. At the time it was hard to read, but this time around I realized the true beauty of the book. It’s the story of a young “Brahmin” in search of enlightenment. The whole point of the story is that enlightenment can’t be sought, or taught for that matter, and it’s his journey through love, self-denial, self-indulgence, patience and finally peace.
Herman Hesse did a wonderful job of putting the Eastern teachings into layman’s terms, especially for the 1950’s era. Siddhartha meets the Buddha personally, the “Illustrious One,” but politely rejects his teachings, recognizing that wisdom cannot be taught. The overall lesson is that “god is within you,” and the eternal “Om” flows within us all (basically, the sum of all our ancestor’s souls, past and present, as well as our own past, present and future all rolled into one).
What I gained from this book was the idea that to find peace within oneself, we must reject all expectations, relinquish all control, and let the natural flow of things, like a river, lead us where we are meant to be.
All in all, I’d have to say it was a beautiful book with a peaceful message.
Illusions by Richard Bach
This was the perfect follow-up to Siddhartha, as it is in the same spiritual vein, but a lot more low-key and humorous. The tagline to this book is “the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah,” and is a very modern story of an auto mechanic turned messiah, who retires from the job out of boredom.
I’d read this book in my younger years as well, when I was a bit more impressionable. This story also promotes the idea that we are all in control of our destiny, but takes more of a “What the Bleep do we know” approach. The main concept here is that all reality is an illusion, and if we can see through it, we can control anything – even being able to walk on water or swim in the earth.
These concepts always drive me crazy, as I feel like deep down I know they are true, but cannot convince my brain of them, and am therefore stuck. The concept is great, especially when we combine it with quantum physics, and the idea that atoms (which every single thing is comprised of) is subject to change based on how we observe them. In my opinion, this is great in theory only, because I’ve yet to meet a living person who can walk on water or bend spoons (or the illusion of them) with their mind.
This book is well-written, putting the concept of the world being illusions into terms anyone can understand. It is lighthearted and downright hilarious at times.
For a crash course in “mind over matter,” I recommend both of these short, “enlightening” books, back to back.