Confronting Futility

I have finally come across a passage in Steppenwolf that struck a chord in me many years ago.  It again struck the chord and made me laugh quite loud to the point where people in the cafe looked at me in astonishment.  May it also strike a chord in you. It is this with which I have wrestled with (unfortunately more internal) during the last decade and continue to do so today. 

Whereupon it occurred to me – so it is with every one.  Just as I dress and go out to visit the professor and exchange a few more or less insincere compliments with him, without really wanting to at all, so it is with the majority of men day by day and hour by hour in their daily lives and affairs.  Without really wanting to at all, they pay calls and carry on conversations, sit out their hours at desks and on office chairs; and it is all compulsory, mechanical and against the grain, and it could all be done or left undone just as well by machines; and indeed it is this never-ceasing machinery that prevents their being, like me, the critics of their own lives and recognizing the stupidity and shallowness, the hopeless tragedy and waste of the lives they lead, and the awful ambiguity grinning over it all.  And they are right, right a thousand times to live as they do, playing their games and pursuing business, instead of resisting the dreary machine and staring into the void as I do, who have left the track.  Let no one think that I blame other men, though now and then in these pages I scorn and even deride them, or that I accuse them of the responsibility of my personal misery.  But now that I have come so far, standing as I do on the extreme verge of life where the ground falls away before me into bottomless darkness, I should do wrong and I should lie if I pretend to myself or to others that the machine still revolved for me and that I was still obedient to the eternal child’s play of that charming world.

Hermann Hesse — “Steppenwolf”

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