What Matters In a Person's Existence

When I take a long look at my life, as though from the outside, it does not appear particularly happy. Yet I am even less justified in calling it unhappy, despite all its mistakes. After all, it is foolish to keep probing for happiness or unhappiness, for it seems to me it would be hard to exchange the unhappiest days of my life for all the happy ones. If what matters in a person’s existence is to accept the inevitable consciously, to taste the good and the bad to the full and to make for oneself a more individual, unaccidental and inward destiny alongside one’s external fate, then my life has been neither empty nor worthless. Even if, as it is decreed by the gods, fate has inexorably trod over my external existence as it does with everyone, my inner life has been of my own making. I deserve its sweetness and bitterness and accept full responsibility for it.
— from "Gertrude" by Herman Hesse

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

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