Herman Hesse: find new light

The march of impermanence continues apace. On a video a recent TED talk on Web 2.0 and activism (which I can’t remember the link to) the speaker said we should expect to work hard on something for a couple of years, “flame out and move on”. During the recent bunch of documentaries on Darwin, I was fascinated by the concept of “evolving to evolve” – adapt or die. I thought about J.G. Ballard’s Empire of the Sun – the adaptability of James Graham and the moral flexibility of Basie. I thought about Arthur Koestler’s account of the different survival strategies of the inmates of Vernet (read Orwell on Koestler’s Scum of the Earth – the para beginning “Of course, Koestler does not say this quite explicitly”), and about Ed Miliband who spoke locally last night on strategies to cope with climate change but – while insisting that governments don’t make changes, people do – didn’t satisfactorily answer Matt’s question about individual measures.

Here is Herman Hesse on embracing change.

As every flower fades and as all youth
Departs, so life at every stage,
So every virtue, so our grasp of truth,
Blooms in its day and may not last forever.
Since life may summon us at every age
Be ready, heart, for parting, new endeavor,
Be ready bravely and without remorse
To find new light that old ties cannot give.
In all beginnings dwells a magic force
For guarding us and helping us to live.
Serenely let us move to distant places
And let no sentiments of home detain us.

The Cosmic Spirit seeks not to restrain us
But lifts us stage by stage to wider spaces.
If we accept a home of our own making,
Familiar habit makes for indolence.
We must prepare for parting and leave-taking
Or else remain the slave of permamence.
Even the hour of our death may send
Us speeding on to fresh and newer spaces,
And life may summon us to newer races.
So be it, heart: bid farewell without end.

I wonder what he would make of the notion of sustainability.

1 thought on “Herman Hesse: find new light

  1. Sustainability (an ugly word, by the way,even for a second language as in my case) was much more natural a hundred years ago or more, when more things were made to last, when the price of replacing a man-made object was much higher than the price of repairs, etc. So Hesse wouldn’t have been much shocked, I guess.

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