I am a film buff, but books are the thing. Books are a saving grace of humanity and we need them bad. They’re great to hold, a library is a comforting place, a room is always made better by books (cookbooks in the kitchen) and no e experience can take that away. Take most every great movie and the book is better. Except maybe The Godfather 1 & IIJ. So if this corner is going to be well-rounded I have to get past film and go to books. Man o man where do I begin?
My reading impulses always leans toward non-fiction. My wife kindly nudges me toward the lovelier graces of the bounteous fiction that the world offers, but eventually I slide back to the world of history. History and how we tell history, the history of history. Who really runs the world? Which is not the smartest approach because it has been abundantly shown that much more truth can be told within the freedom of the fictional form then ever told straight-out. For example Taylor Caldwell. Sigh.
So I asked myself what book should we start with? And Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse, popped into my head. The first/quick answer is always the closest to the truth, before the brain can filter. This spiritual classic is what we shall trumpet today.
If you haven’t read it there’s a free version here. But please, go over to your favorite used bookstore and get a copy, it shouldn’t be more than a few bucks. Say Hi for me. If you don’t have a favorite used bookstore, and are in Chapel Hill, The Bookshop is a great place. The tectonic plate shifts of the media and tech world have decimated the ranks of bookstores from days of yore but some hardy souls have survived and even grown and The Bookshop is one.
One of the distilled truths of studying culture is: Patriarchal vs Matrilineal. Patriarchal or Apollonian is represented by a reliance on rational, left brain, logical, practical, competitive, physical thought and action. Matrilineal or Dionysian is represented by Cosmic, right brain, abstract, intuitional, cooperative, spiritual thought and action. Patriarchy favors masculine, authority, work and control. Matrilineal favors feminine, pure democracy, nurturance, play and surrender. There is a pendulum which swings from the far side of patriarchal-say The Roman or Western/American Empire and the far side of matrilineal-say a Kalahari bushman tribe in the sub-Sahara. This can be outlined in many ways and one is West vs East. This outlines the fundamental nature of life, the duality (if dark) or polarity (if light) of life on the material plane.
We saw the pendulum begin to swing back with the 60’s. Eastern non-patriarchal concepts began to be introduced into the culture from various streams even down to the Beatles, who visited the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India and wrote songs about it. The pop ditty Hello/Goodbye is a creative essay on this polarity of life: male/female, east/west, yin/yang, expansion/contraction, hot/cold, salt/pepper- that so permeates but is a foreign concept in a patriarchal culture. The songs swings through many such polarities but ends with the lovely chorus of Aloha, repeatedly. Aloha is one of the few-maybe only- word, on Earth, which means both Hello & Goodbye, signifying from Native Hawaiian culture the understanding that one and both are the same. I must add, though eastern matrilineal concepts began to flow west in the 60’s, Bill Wilson, Dr. Bob and AA were responsible for introducing the spiritual concept of surrender to America in a not-religious form in the late 30’s. Bless their hearts. Acceptance and surrender are a key to successful living.
Whew! All that is an academic didactic that Siddhartha illuminates in a better more lovely way. This is part and parcel of the story and touches the heart. Happy reading!