Prospects, by Akbar Ahmed
The name “Siddhartha” is made up of two Sanskrit words: siddha, meaning “achieved” and artha, “was searched for.” Together, the two words roughly translate to “one who has found meaning of existence.” Herman Hesse’s 1922 novel about a man named Siddharta who leaves home in search of meaning and self discovery is a story that, in part, belongs to all of us. No matter what our culture of origin, we are ingrained with a set of expectations and ideals for our prospects, all of which are a means to an end in our search for purpose.
“Serenity is what we strive for, survival what we settle on.” This piece illuminates that ideal and ever elusive promise of serenity that will arrive in our lives only if and only when various goals are achieved. The story of Siddharta as a twenty-something year old with grand dreams of self-actualization and finding a life full of meaning portrays this familiar sense of dissatisfaction as one that happens as a growing pain of youth. However, our lives are full of inflection points that force us to examine our values, our priorities, and our ideals. What is your “serenity” that you strive for? Does it come to you easily nowadays? Do you find yourself settling for survival? When your eyelids fall each night, what is it you feel yourself yearning for?
I, like many, am guilty of falling prey to the idea that self illumination and satisfaction are just around the corner of my next achievement or milestone, and am heavily influenced by my own culture’s emphasis on stability and success. But to find the serenity that already exists in my life is a much more difficult feat than continually pressing on over the next ridge to find if serenity lies there. What cultural influences have shaped your own picture of idyllic serenity? Today, are you Herman Hesse’s character Siddharta, pressing on in search of serenity? Are you the embodiment of the name, “one who has found meaning of existence”? Or are you suspended somewhere between the two?
Brianna Curran, Laguna Niguel, California