Steppenwolf

Looked at with the bourgeois eye, my life had been a continuous descent from one shattering to the next that left me more remote at every step from all that was normal, permissible and healthful.  The passing years had stripped me of my calling, my family, my home.  I stood outside all social circles, alone, beloved by none, mistrusted by many, in unceasing and bitter conflict with public opinion and morality; and though I lived in a bourgeois setting, I was all the same an utter stranger to this world in all I thought and felt.  Religion, country, family, state, all lost their value and meant nothing to me any more.  The pomposity of the sciences, societies, and arts disgusted me.  My views and tastes and all that I thought, once the shining adornments of a gifted and sought-after person, had run to seed in neglect and were looked at askance.  Granting that I had in the course of all my painful transmutations made some invisible and unaccountable gain, I had to pay dearly for it; and at every turn my life was harsher, more difficult, lonely and perilous.  In truth, I had little cause to wish to continue in that way which led on into ever thinner air, like the smoke in Nietzsche’s harvest song.

A passage from “Steppenwolf” by Hermann Hesse

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3 thoughts on “Steppenwolf

  1. Wow, this is beautiful. I’ve never read it, and I must. I surely related to just this one passage. I’ve made so many decisions in my life that have put me on the outs, when I so easily might have “fit in”. I think people have never known quite what to make of my life — I seem, from afar, perfectly normal — but I have never been happy with normal or with settling. I so easily could have adopted the faith of my family along with their politics and opinions instead of finding my own. I could have married the “right guy” instead of the one I loved. Followed the easier career instead of my passion. Stayed friends with the “right people” instead of veering off into solitude. All the former decisions probably would have led to an easier life both financially and socially, but anyone who chooses easy over right or true, isn’t really someone I respect.

    Thanks for posting this quote, and reminding me of all this.

    • It is a great work, one that my brother recommended to me probably twenty years ago. I read it back then and connected with the book at the time and it helped me in certain ways. But I betrayed myself at one point and took the easy way. You may not respect me 😉 On a much broader and philosophical level, I feel that expending my energy making money is in fact an act of self betrayal. Rare is the individual that can say they truly get paid money for exactly what they want to be doing. But my hat is off to those who can.

      So, after a “decade of decadence” (which will be an upcoming biographical piece and self pounding with the hammer), I find that it is appropriate to give this work a re-read. And although I did betray myself, I didn’t let the wolf or the man completely die. As such, I find myself in a similar position to this passage but via a different process than the more honorable Steppenwolf.

      I am very happy that you connect with this passage and if you read the book I am certain that you will love it. You seem to be in step with the wolf so to speak and the woman is being refined through the Dusty Shelf. Don’t stray from the path for it is a long way back to the fork.

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