Every Person's True Calling

At this point the realization suddenly flared within me like a sharp burst of flame: everyone has his “task,” but it is never a task he can choose for himself, can define and carry out however he wants. It was wrong to want new gods, it was utterly wrong to want to give the world anything! For awakened human beings, there was no obligation–none, none, none at all–except this: to search for yourself, become sure of yourself, feel your way forward along your own path, where it led. – This realization upset me deeply, and that was what I gained from the whole experience. I had often toyed with ideas and images of my future, dreaming up roles to play: as a writer, for example, or prophet, or painter, or whatever it was. All that meant nothing. I was not put on earth to write, or preach, or paint–and nor was anyone else. These things were only secondary. Every person’s true calling was to arrive at himself. He might end up a poet or a madman, a prophet or a criminal–that was of no concern of his; in the end it was meaningless. His concern was to find his own fate, not a random one, and to live it out, full and complete. Everything else was a half-measure, escapism, fleeing back into the ideal of the masses–conformity and fear of what was inside yourself. This new picture rose up before my eyes, terrifying and sacred, foreshadowed and suspected a hundred times, maybe even spoken out loud many times, and yet only now truly experienced. I was a roll of Nature’s dice, thrown into the unknown, maybe into a new world, maybe into the void, and my only purpose in life was to let this throw from the primal depths play out, feel its will inside me, and make that will entirely my own. Only that!
— from "Demian" by Hermann Hesse

Indices to the Idle Lonely

She had watched them in supermarkets and she knew the signs. At seven o’clock on a Saturday evening they would be standing in the checkout line reading the horoscope in Harper’s Bazaar and in their carts would be a single lamb chop and maybe two cans of cat food and the Sunday morning paper, the early edition with the comics wrapped outside. They would be very pretty some of the time, their skirts the right length and their sunglasses the right tint and maybe only a little vulnerable tightness around the mouth, but there they were, one lamb chop and some cat food and the morning paper. To avoid giving off the signs, Maria shopped always for a household, gallons of grapefruit juice, quarts of green chile salsa, dried lentils and alphabet noodles, rigatoni and canned yams, twenty-pound boxes of laundry detergent. She knew all the indices to the idle lonely, never bought a small tube of toothpaste, never dropped a magazine in her shopping cart. The house in Beverly Hills overflowed with sugar, corn-muffin mix, frozen roasts and Spanish onions. Maria ate cottage cheese.
— from "Play It As It Lays" by Joan Didion

On What Ruins a Person

‘You’ve told me you like music because it is outside of morality,’ he said. ‘Well and good. But now stop being a moralist yourself! You can’t keep comparing yourself to other people–if nature has made you a bat, you can’t decide you want to be an ostrich. You sometimes feel like you don’t belong, you blame yourself for following a different path than most other people. You have to unlearn that. Stare into the fire, look at the clouds, and when ideas or intuitions come to you and the voices in your soul start to speak, trust them and don’t worry about whether your teacher or your daddy or any other lord above likes what they have to say! That’s what ruins a person. That’s how you end up on the law-abiding sidewalk, just another fossil. My dear Sinclair, our god is called Abraxus, and he is God and Satan both, he contains the world of light and the world of darkness. Abraxus does not reject a single one of your thoughts and dreams. Never forget that. But he will leave you if you ever turn normal and irreproachable. Then he will leave you, and look for another pot to cook up his thoughts in.’
— from "Demian" by Hermann Hesse

On That Something Inside Us

‘My dear Sinclair,’ he said slowly, “I wasn’t trying to say anything disagreeable. And anyway–neither of us really knows the real reason why you’re drinking. Whatever it is inside you shaping your life knows already. It’s so good to know that there’s something inside us, and that it knows everything, wants everything, and does everything better than we do! – But forgive me, I have to go home now.’
— from "Demian" by Hermann Hesse

Much Ado About... Nothing

 

The blaring, archaic ringing of the house phone jolted me awake. It was three in the afternoon. I had fallen asleep while reading in bed–in my bathrobe, no less. Why was I wearing a bathrobe? Oh, that's right–I originally planned on taking a shower but decided to put on a cleansing hair masque first. It was supposed to be left on for twenty minutes before rinsing which is where the reading came in. I've always found waking up from naps disorienting, especially when it's unexpected.

"Hello?"

"Hi, it's me, Andrew."

Andrew is a neighbor of ours with a ranch a few miles down the road. He shares the property with his brother. They both live in L.A. but come up on the weekends as a retreat from city life. They're also the only people we're acquainted with in the town of Three Rivers who are under the age of 70. 

"Oh, hi!" I said, trying to sound as awake and alert as possible, sitting up in bed. 

"Are you O.K.?" he asked, "You sound... A little off." 

"Oh, you know... I'm fine. I was just reading a book.... Wait, are you up here?"

I didn't have the nerve to tell him that I was napping.

"Well, I was," he replied. "I tried calling you guys before I left. Tonny said to give a call once I got back–hence this call, though, I must say  I'm pleasantly surprised to hear your voice."

"I'm sorry we missed you while you were here," I said, sincerely.

"What's new with you?"

Ah, the dreaded question. I felt compelled to say: "Nothing and everything." The "nothing" is in regards to having nothing new to report other than I'm still trying to figure out my life; the "everything" is that, in doing the figuring out part, there are about a million feelings, thoughts, and emotions roiling around inside of me all at once–not to mention a collection of short-lived gigs

My life is sorta like a consommé that's in the works. It's a bunch of coarse ingredients simmering away in a pot, with the hopes of–at some point–becoming a refined, harmonious, clarified liquid. Right now, the broth is cloudy and doesn't quite taste like anything yet. It needs more time.

The book I was reading, by the way, was a memoir called Mistakes Were Made (Some In French) by Fiona Lewis. To sum up the book jacket, it's a story about a woman who moves at her own pace through life and who, in her fifties, battles with her fears of not being a success, not having children, and aging. (No surprise here why this resonates with me.) After spending a year in the French countryside, restoring a crumbling chatêau and reflecting upon her life, she begins to accept her "self". She'd finally lay claim to something of her own. No grand achievements or treacherous adventures to be told, yet inspiring all the same.

It's inspiring me to look for my own version of her French chatêau. (Because Lord knows I'm not going to actually buy and restore a French chatêau on my own.)

"I just got back from L.A. and enjoying the ranch." I answered, breezily, looking out at the green hills and gray skies. "It's been chilly here."

"Our goats gave birth," he said, lighting up, "I swear to you, their babies are the cutest things you've ever seen. You should drive down there and play with them–and bring back as many eggs as you want from the chicken coop."

"I should," I said. "Thank you. I should do that."

I really should.