Emily pulled a book from my bookshelf this morning and said, “This looks interesting.” It was “Getting It On” by Lewis Grizzard. She thought it might be a sexually raunchy book, not that I have a lot of them, but in my head life unfolds that way. I got to thinking about Grizzard’s life, what little I know of it. I know in his early life as a comedian he was a racist and his humor reflected that racism, but I did not find that out until after his death. I just remember him as a purveyor of southern humor rich with simple southern life. He understood the charm of a steak dinner at Waffle House if you get my drift. I also thought about how I’ve changed my reading habits in my merging autumn years. As I thought about this I remembered I had read Herman Hess’s “Siddhartha” this week at work and how out of character that was for me these days. It was a slow week and nothing crossed my desk to do and once I got all the unimportant things done that no one asks you to do but you know they expect you to do, I had time on my hands. I got Google books up on the computer and searched for Steppenwolf thinking I would read that story again since I last read it in a previous life and couldn’t remember why it was considered worth reading by the literary world. Well, actually, I was tired of reading my critical thinking book and wanted something different. I found it, but got side tracked to Siddhartha and for the life of me I don’t know why. I had never read it before and knew nothing of it. Hess was known to me as a German writer of strange philosophical undertakings that bored me to tears in my youth. I started with an introduction to Hess himself and was struck by a lot of similarities between his life and his thoughts and mine. We are not all that identical, but there were some remarkable similarities of thought. I finished the book by the first hour of the second day and have pondered its meaning off and on the rest of this week. I realize it means far more to me now than it ever could when I was 19 and built “like a rock”. I can’t help but think teachers waste a lot of effort on high school kids trying to get them to read and enjoy the classics when one really needs a lot of life experience and the wisdom that comes from that exposure to really relate and see the real value of the authors writings. It’s like expecting a high school biology student to understand the instructions of a brain surgeon at work. What a waste.
For those who have not read Siddhartha, you may want to pick it up some time and give it a try. It is less than a hundred pages and you don’t have to worry about in-depth character studies because that is not Hess’s style. You may find his insight into life and value of human interaction and experience insightful.