by cheri block
Had his lungs and heart held out for just six more months, Joe would have been eighty years old today. His presence in my life was like a bonfire that burned for forty-five years with an endless supply of fuel. A brilliant philosopher and literary critic, a bombastic Sicilian, my tutor, at times my surrogate father, my weekly lunch date and my friend, Joe died last year while waiting for the ambulance in the black of night on the Ides of March. And it is no coincidence that I would be called from my memories of him today to attend class tonight for the purpose of discussing Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. Joe was my Vasudeva. From him, over the course of four decades and from among the many pieces of wisdom I absorbed, two stand out as mantras for living in the present: Qué Será, Será and Baby, I don’t do nostalgia. 🙂
They segue right into the story of Siddhartha. “Ceasing to fight against one’s destiny” is one of the most powerful sentences in the novel and it naturally comes at the end. By the time we have witnessed Siddhartha’s journey (which reminds me, oddly, of a year in the life of a high school junior), we expect a fusion of all things. But are all things one? Am I part of the creek that runs through our Rancho? And more importantly, do I have a destiny? I have an obligation to be a steward of our little creek and mighty oaks, but I am not part of them. My destiny is largely what I make it. I will not sit by the creek bank and wait for destiny to come to me. Was Siddhartha an enlightened one? Or was he just a fella from the upper class looking for a feel-good philosophy to explain away his past actions?