Genre doesn’t matter to me when I’m reading. I pick up whatever grabs my interest, which means I’m usually shuffling back and forth between two or three books at any given time. In my latest reading, I alternated between Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha and Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek. One would assume, as I did, that these two books are about as polar opposite as can be. Imagine my surprise to find a common spiritual theme.
Yes, I know. I was taken aback myself.
Siddhartha, written in 1922, is Hesse’s story of an Asian Indian man’s spiritual search for the meaning of life, a theme not uncommon to his many works. In the book, Siddhartha seeks spiritual wisdom from the time of his boyhood, and finally, as an old man, comes to a great understanding.
When someone is seeking,” said Siddharth, “it happens quite easily that he only sees the thing that he is seeking; that he is unable to find anything, unable to absorb anything, because he is only thinking of the one thing he is seeking, because he has a goal, because he is obsessed with his goal… You, O worthy one, are perhaps indeed a seeker, for in striving towards your goal, you do not see many things that are under your nose.
Fast forward 85 years and in 2001 Timothy Ferriss publishes The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9 – 5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. It hit every best-seller list in the country for several consecutive years. What makes this book so appealing? It would seem that an unprecedented number of people desire to cut loose the 9 – 5 chains that bind them, and enjoy a more relaxing and exciting life. I am one of those believers, having resigned from my 9 – 5 four years ago to follow my dreams.
Interestingly, after Ferriss gives the formula for making a life of freedom reality, he advises readers to get rid of their “stuff” and just wander the world. Not unlike Hesse’s message, Ferriss’ parallel becomes more apparent when, near the end, he addresses a common phenomenon for those who suddenly find themselves free from the constraints of constant work. With more time on their hands, these newly freed and wandering people often begin to feel overwhelmed when they find themselves seeking the answers to the meaning of life.
I am 100% convinced,” Ferriss writes, “that most big questions we feel compelled to face—handed down through centuries of overthinking and mistranslation—use terms so undefined as to make attempting to answer them a complete waste of time.
Essentially, Ferriss claims that seeking the answers to such questions is much less important than living a joyful life and feeling good about oneself. Not unlike Hesse stating that when we’re so busy looking for the meaning of life, we have a tendency not to appreciate and enjoy the life we have!
That I picked up two very different books by chance and found a parallel spiritual theme is not coincidental to me; rather, perfectly synchronistic. Perfectly timed to reinforce my life path: a course of ease and flow, following my passions as closely as possible. This is the life I wish to live and model for my children.
To which I say, “Thank you Universe. I shall carry on.”