Hermann Hesse on Solitude, the Value of Hardship, the Courage to Be Yourself, and How to Find Your Destiny

By Maria Popova (brainpickings.org)


“No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life,” the young Nietzsche wrote as he contemplated what it takes to find oneself. Somehow, this man of stark contradiction, cycling between nihilistic despondency and electric buoyancy along the rim of madness, has managed to inspire some of humanity’s most surefooted spirits — among them, the great German poet, novelist, painter, and Nobel laureate Hermann Hesse (July 2, 1877–August 9, 1962), who drew from Nietzsche’s philosophy the most humanistic ideas, then magnified them with his own transcendent humanity.

Some of Hesse’s most emboldening ideas about our human responsibility to ourselves and the world unfold in his “Letter to a Young German,” written to a dispirited youth in 1919 and later included in his 1946 anthology If the War Goes On… (public library), published the year he received the Nobel Prize — the same stirring piece that gave us Hesse on hope, the difficult art of taking responsibility, and the wisdom of the inner voice.


Hermann Hesse

Decades before E.E. Cummings asserted that “to be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight,” Hesse writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngYou must unlearn the habit of being someone else or nothing at all, of imitating the voices of others and mistaking the faces of others for your own.


One thing is given to man which makes him into a god, which reminds him that he is a god: to know destiny.


When destiny comes to a man from outside, it lays him low, just as an arrow lays a deer low. When destiny comes to a man from within, from his innermost being, it makes him strong, it makes him into a god… A man who has recognized his destiny never tries to change it. The endeavor to change destiny is a childish pursuit that makes men quarrel and kill one another… All sorrow, poison, and death are alien, imposed destiny. But every true act, everything that is good and joyful and fruitful on earth, is lived destiny, destiny that has become self.

Echoing Nietzsche’s insistence that a fulfilling life requires embracing rather than running from difficulty, Hesse exhorts the young to treat their suffering with respect and curiosity, and adds:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngMight your bitter pain not be the voice of destiny, might that voice not become sweet once you understand it?


Action and suffering, which together make up our lives, are a whole; they are one. A child suffers its begetting, it suffers its birth, its weaning; it suffers here and suffers there until in the end it suffers death. But all the good in a man, for which he is praised or loved, is merely good suffering, the right kind, the living kind of suffering, a suffering to the full. The ability to suffer well is more than half of life — indeed, it is all life. Birth is suffering, growth is suffering, the seed suffers the earth, the root suffers the rain, the bud suffers its flowering.

In the same way, my friends, man suffers destiny. Destiny is earth, it is rain and growth. Destiny hurts.

Long before Simone Weil contemplated how to make use of our suffering, Hesse holds up hardship as “the forge of destiny” and adds:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngIt is hard to learn to suffer. Women succeed more often and more nobly than men. Learn from them! Learn to listen when the voice of life speaks! Learn to look when the sun of destiny plays with your shadows! Learn to respect life! Learn to respect yourselves! From suffering springs strength…

Writing fifteen years after he made his exquisite case for breaking the trance of busyness, Hesse returns to the sandbox of selfhood — solitude:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngTrue action, good and radiant action, my friends, does not spring from activity, from busy bustling, it does not spring from industrious hammering. It grows in the solitude of the mountains, it grows on the summits where silence and danger dwell. It grows out of the suffering which you have not yet learned to suffer.


Solitude is the path over which destiny endeavors to lead man to himself. Solitude is the path that men most fear. A path fraught with terrors, where snakes and toads lie in wait… Without solitude there is no suffering, without solitude there is no heroism. But the solitude I have in mind is not the solitude of the blithe poets or of the theater, where the fountain bubbles so sweetly at the mouth of the hermit’s cave.


Photograph by Maria Popova

Learning to be nourished by solitude rather than defeated by it, Hesse argues, is a prerequisite for taking charge of our destiny:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngMost men, the herd, have never tasted solitude. They leave father and mother, but only to crawl to a wife and quietly succumb to new warmth and new ties. They are never alone, they never commune with themselves. And when a solitary man crosses their path, they fear him and hate him like the plague; they fling stones at him and find no peace until they are far away from him. The air around him smells of stars, of cold stellar spaces; he lacks the soft warm fragrance of the home and hatchery.


A man must be indifferent to the possibility of falling, if he wants to taste of solitude and to face up to his own destiny. It is easier and sweeter to walk with a people, with a multitude — even through misery. It is easier and more comforting to devote oneself to the “tasks” of the day, the tasks meted out by the collectivity.

In a sentiment the poet May Sarton would echo in her stunning ode to solitude two decades later, Hesse adds:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngSolitude is not chosen, any more than destiny is chosen. Solitude comes to us if we have within us the magic stone that attracts destiny.


Photograph by Maria Popova

Two millennia after Seneca admonished that “all your sorrows have been wasted on you if you have not yet learned how to be wretched,” Hesse exults:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngBlessed be he who has found his solitude, not the solitude pictured in painting or poetry, but his own, unique, predestined solitude. Blessed be he who knows how to suffer! Blessed be he who bears the magic stone in his heart. To him comes destiny, from him comes authentic action.

In consonance with Seamus Heaney’s lyrical insight that “the true and durable path into and through experience involves being true… to your own solitude, true to your own secret knowledge,” Hesse addresses the young:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngYou were made to be yourselves. You were made to enrich the world with a sound, a tone, a shadow.


In each one of you there is a hidden being, still in the deep sleep of childhood. Bring it to life! In each one of you there is a call, a will, an impulse of nature, an impulse toward the future, the new, the higher. Let it mature, let it resound, nurture it! Your future is not this or that; it is not money or power, it is not wisdom or success at your trade — your future, your hard dangerous path is this: to mature and to find God in yourselves.

A century later, the entire piece remains a spectacular and deeply insightful read, as does the whole of Hesse’s If the War Goes On…. Complement this particular fragment with Ursula K. Le Guin on suffering and the other side of pain, Louise Bourgeois on how solitude enriches creative work and Elizabeth Bishop on why everyone should experience at least one long period of solitude in life, then revisit Hesse on the discipline of savoring life’s little joyswhy books will survive all future technologythe three types of readers, and what trees teach us about belonging and life.



According to the Astrology Forecast February 2019, this month will be hopping!

Astrology Forecast February 2019 – Moving On, Through, Forward, and Along

To listen to Astrologer Kathy Biehl discuss the Astrology Forecast February 2019, click the player below.

Audio Player:  https://omtimes.com/2019/01/astrology-forecast-february-2019/

February may be the shortest month of the year, but it also stands to be one of the most hopping.

We’re still figuring and sorting out January’s gear shifts, epiphanies and breakthroughs – not to mention the chaos and revolution of the past few years — but that’s not hindering action. February is serving up round after round of moving … on, through, forward, ahead, along.

First up in the Astrology Forecast February 2019: the next big phase in expressing ourselves in a group context. The Aquarius New Moon February 4 ushers that in, moving us on (that phrase!) from the lessons of two and a half year Leo/Aquarius eclipse cycle, which ended with the eyepopping blood moon lunar eclipse of January 20-21. The wrapping up will play out for months. In the meantime, updates are rolling out now in your heart, self-acceptance, and networks.

This New Moon occurs on the degree of the Aquarius lunar eclipse of August 2017. Think back to how chapters ended and social circles rearranged in or because of the events of that summer. The new or next phases in situations arising now have a connection to them.

That eclipse was also on Robert Mueller’s sun, about six months into his term as special prosecutor. And lo and behold, the days after this New Moon have the issue of one his cooperating witnesses, Trump’s former attorney/fixer Michael Cohen, testifying before Congress. He was scheduled to do this voluntarily just after the New Moon, on Feb. 7. In advance, in January, conflicting info leaked (Jupiter square Neptune) that Trump may / may not have instructed Cohen to lie to Congress in his previous testimony. Cohen postponed his February testimony on grounds of threats to his physical safety and to his family (which if true are the federal crime of witness tampering and potentially additional fodder for the special prosecutor), and the House Oversight Committee responded by subpoenaing him to appear. All this before February even began, with more to come at and soon after the Aquarius New Moon. #ThereIsNoSuchThingAsCoincidence

As these unroll we’re soon feeling more than thinking, grokking more than verbalizing, picking up and transmitting messages more by telepathy and dreams than by talking and texting. Mercury finishes his annual tour of Aquarius on February 10, when he drops from high in the sky into the all-connected waters of Pisces. By the 20th he enters the degrees he’ll retrace when he retrogrades at the beginning of March, which means matters from the end of the month may well come up for revisiting next month.

Mid-month brings overlapping rounds of moving on, through, forward, ahead, along. An action is impassioned, spontaneous, risky, unconventional and explosive. (Let’s everyone visualize that last one being metaphoric!)

This is part of the graduation exercise for the independent study course in self-starting and self-actualizing you’ve been taking (consciously or not) since 2010. Warrior god Mars, the planet of push and ruler of our motivation and drive, is meeting unpredictable, liberating change agent Uranus on the 13th, then heading for the slower, calmer, weightier earth of Taurus the next day.

Mars is at maximum (fire)power before that shift. He’s accentuating daring, boldness, aggressiveness, frustration, anger and courage, any or all of which will explode without warning (or visible provocation). Then he throttles back into a mode that doesn’t sit well with him (or some of us): slow, steady, methodical, sensual, practical. This is a formula for artisans and with craftspeople, for making things tangible, real, bankable.

This crossover reactivates the cosmic shoves of May 15-16, 2018. Watch for (and engage in) practical, tangible movement on the paradigm shifts that broke open then.

This time around, we’re more proactive and self-reliant, with clearer boundaries to boot. Chiron, the embodiment of our abiding wounds, is ending some eight years in Pisces and starting an eight-year tour of Aries, over February 18-19.

Chiron in Pisces blurred energetic and emotional boundaries, mingling individual pains and wounds with those of other people and humanity at large. His time there heightened the experience or awareness of issues involving underdogs, the powerless and refugees; empathy and compassion; martyrdom, victimization and scapegoating; and the far-reaching effect of a butterfly’s flutter – or a tossed pebble sending ripples out in a pond.

Something might hit critical mass on his way out the door – a healing crisis, maybe. The switch is underscoring and running with the revitalization we’ve received from Uranus in Aries, so it’s unlikely we’ll be down for long. Instead, we’ll shake off the water and implement new and improved behaviors. Adopt a superhero role model, or create one based on yourself.

Clear-eyed analytical feedback – with more than a touch of ESP – comes with the Virgo Full Moon, at the first degree of the sign, on February 19. The rational and nonrational ends of the usual Full Moon equation have changed places. Your heart is spotlighting what needs improvement; your mind is off in the clouds with Neptune, spinning dreams and fantasies and magic.

Meanwhile, reason has hold of the goddess of love as well. She’s conjunct cosmic rule-enforcer and Über-adult Saturn, making desires sober, worldly, realistic and looking for containment and commitment.

And yet, she’s still susceptible to nonrational impulses and abandons. Cravings with the pull of a tractor beam are at work, as she joins the subterranean, primal power of Pluto on February 22. It’s the call of nature, the itch that demands to scratch, the lure of the abyss, or a volcano, or raw intimacy with a fellow human, possibly the scariest attraction of all. As the two planets of love and desire fuse, Jupiter’s whipping up Mercury, casting us as leads in our own little romantic comedies (or would that be a dark indie film?) and making us believe wild dreams are coming true.

Trickery? Miracle? We might not care which. Clarity is possible on February 23, when Mercury and Pluto open a doorway to candor. By the end of the month, opportunities and motivation arise to push ourselves on, through, forward, ahead, along. In superhero costume or not.

About the Astrologer

Kathy Biehl is an astrologer, Tarot master and Best American Psychics member who helps individuals and businesses understand (and laugh about!) themselves, their options and the people in their lives. empowermentunlimited.net


Translators:  Melissa Goodnight, Richard Branam, Hanz Bolen, Mike Zonta

SENSE TESTIMONY:  Concentration of wealth and information unbalances the commonwealth of individuals and communities.

5th Step Conclusions:

1)  Truth is a diffuse, indivisible, Self-informed community of well-being (commonwealth), construing/elucidating Itself perfectly and equally.

2)  All is One Infinite Consciousness Beingness, everywhere equally present as the limitless treasure of intelligent wherewithal — forever endowing and sustaining every perfect individuation of the common good.

3)  Truth is Aloha Communal Community, this Relationship is the Indivisible Cosmic Consciousness, Being I Am that I Am, this System is the Self Commanding Volition of Uniformity of Self Informed: Newly Morphed Continuum rendering Permission to Live Life Thrivingly.

4)  All one mind Individuated is clearly knowing powering doing appreciating all with self evident sound agreeable well being.

Joke about a drunk guy

A police officer sees a drunken man intently searching the ground near a lamppost and asks him the goal of his quest. The inebriate replies that he is looking for his car keys, and the officer helps for a few minutes without success then he asks whether the man is certain that he dropped the keys near the lamppost.

“No,” is the reply, “I lost the keys somewhere across the street.” “Why look here?” asks the surprised and irritated officer. “The light is much better here,” the intoxicated man responds with aplomb.


The New American Story | Marianne Williamson | TEDxBerkeley

TEDx Talks
Published on Mar 8, 2018

Making it her personal goal to break the norms tying society down, Marianne Williamson gives a moving talk on activism, empowerment, and the politically tumultuous climate. Marianne Williamson is an internationally acclaimed author and lecturer. For the last 35 years, she has been one of America’s most well known public voices, having been a popular guest on television programs such as Oprah, Larry King Live, Good Morning America, & Bill Maher. Seven of her twelve published books have been New York Times Best Sellers and four of these were #1. The mega best seller A Return to Love is considered a must-read of The New Spirituality. A paragraph from that book, beginning “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure…” is considered an anthem for a contemporary generation of seekers. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

Josiah Royce

“I would say that Royce is the philosopher we need today. In an age of division, fragmentation and isolation, Royce is the philosopher we don’t know we have. He is the philosopher of binding and connection.”

As opposed to the current crop of… “philosophers”.

In 1900, there were two great philosophers working side by side at Harvard, William James and Josiah Royce. James was from an eminent Boston family and had all the grace, brilliance and sophistication that his class aspired to. Royce, as the historian Allen Guelzo points out, was the first major American philosopher born west of the Mississippi. His parents were Forty-Niners who moved to California but failed to find gold. He grew up in squalor, was stocky, lonely and probably knew more about despair and the brooding shadows that can come in life.

James and Royce admired and learned from each other, but their philosophies were different, too. James was pragmatic and tough-minded, looking for empirical truth. Royce was more idealistic and tender-minded, more spiritual and abstract.

They differed on the individual’s role in society. As David Lamberth of Harvard notes, James’s emphasis was on tolerance. We live in a pluralistic society and we each know only a fragment of the truth. People should give one another enough social space so they can be themselves. For Royce the good life meant tightly binding yourself to others — giving yourself away with others for the sake of a noble cause. Tolerance is not enough.

James’s influence is now enormous — deservedly so. Royce is almost entirely forgotten. And yet I would say that Royce is the philosopher we need today. In an age of division, fragmentation and isolation, Royce is the philosopher we don’t know we have. He is the philosopher of binding and connection.

Royce argued that meaningful lives are marked, above all, by loyalty. Out on the frontier, he had seen the chaos and anarchy that ensues when it’s every man for himself, when society is just a bunch of individuals searching for gain. He concluded that people make themselves miserable when they pursue nothing more than their “fleeting, capricious and insatiable” desires.

So for him the good human life meant loyalty, “the willing and practical and thoroughgoing devotion of a person to a cause.”

A person doesn’t have to invent a cause, or find it deep within herself. You are born into a world of causes, which existed before you were born and will be there after you die. You just have to become gripped by one, to give yourself away to it realizing that the cause is more important than your individual pleasure or pain.

You’re never going to find a cause if you are working in a bland office; you have to go out to where the problems are. Loyalty is not just emotion. It is action.

“The loyal man serves. That is, he does not merely follow his own impulses. He looks to his cause for guidance. This cause tells him what to do,” Royce wrote in “The Philosophy of Loyalty.”

The cause gives unity and consistency to life. The cause gives fellowship, because there are always others serving the same cause. Loyalty is the cure for hesitancy.

Of course, there can be good causes and bad causes. So Royce argued that if loyalty is the center of the good life, then we should admire those causes, based on mutual affection, that value and enhance other people’s loyalty.

We should despise those causes, based on a shared animosity, that destroy other people’s loyalty. If my loyalty to America does not allow your community’s story to be told, or does not allow your community’s story to be part of the larger American story, then my loyalty is a domineering, predatory loyalty. It is making it harder for you to be loyal. We should instead be encouraging of other loyalties. We should, Royce argued, be loyal to loyalty.

Before Martin Luther King Jr. used it, Royce popularized the phrase “the beloved community.” In the beloved community, political opponents honor the loyalty the rival has for a cause, and learn from it.

In such a community, people submit themselves to their institution, say to a university. They discover how good it is by serving it, and they allow themselves to be formed by it. According to Royce, communities find their voice when they own their own betrayals; evil exists so we can struggle to overcome it.

Royce took his philosophy one more crucial step: Though we have our different communities, underneath there is an absolute unity to life. He believed that all separate individuals and all separate loyalties are mere fragments of a spiritual unity — an Absolute Knower, a moral truth.

That sense of an ultimate unity at the end things, shines back on us, because it means all our diverse loyalties are actually parts of the same loyalty. We all, he wrote, “seek a city out of sight.” This sense of ultimate unity, of human brotherhood and sisterhood, is what is missing in a lot of the current pessimism and divisiveness.

Royce’s philosophy is helpful with the problem we have today. How does the individual fit into the community and how does each community fit into the whole? He offered a shift in perspective. When evaluating your life, don’t ask, “How happy am I?” Ask, “How loyal am I, and to what?”

Life Will Take Care Of Them: Revenge is NEVER The Answer.

Go to the profile of Tim Denning

Image Credit: I Love Dust

We’ve all been tempted. Revenge is delicious.

Have you ever traveled to the top of a scenic mountain and stopped at the side of the road to buy freshly made, warm, jam donuts and coffee? It’s simply delicious, isn’t it?

That’s what revenge can feel like.

I should know. Last week I received hundreds of comments from a known troll in the UK which knocked me flat on my face. He invited lots of people to come and hate my work with him and it drowned out all the positivity.

Thoughts of revenge.

I had them. Again, they were delicious.

Image Credit: Reddit, Bzbzbzbz

As a digital marketer, there’s a lot I could do to fight back. I could set up an alias and then go on an internet rampage with a metaphorical gun in my hand shooting anyone that dares leave a comment on a social media platform.

I could go behind their back and convince people to form an alliance against the resistance (I stole that from Star Wars). I could direct message them directly and rip them to shreds with every ounce of hate in my body.

I didn’t do any of that.

My mind went back to a time last year when a blogger tore me to strips and I gave them a call on the phone. We spoke for an hour. He saw that I wasn’t who he thought I was. I didn’t yell at him, accuse him of anything — all I did was listen to him. At the end of the call, we forgave each other.

It wasn’t like a scene out of Romeo and Juliet, it just felt like the right thing to do at the time.

We all have thoughts of revenge and that’s okay. The important thing I’ve learned over the last few weeks is not to act on them.

Reason with yourself that revenge will not serve you in any positive way.

Revenge is a temptation and an addiction.

Internet haters are everywhere.

Take a look at the comments section of a Youtube video. It’s like being stuck in the middle of gang wars somewhere on the streets of America. It’s a cesspool of hatred that doesn’t lead anywhere.

The reason we see so much revenge seeking on the internet is because it’s not only tempting but addictive.

When you seek revenge by tearing someone down in the comments section of a post, there’s no responsibility.

Revenge can easily be achieved with next to no responsibility or ramifications for your actions.

Other revenge seekers gather around you and make it feel like you’re doing the right thing.

What are we seeking revenge for?

No one will admit this but here’s what revenge seekers are wanting revenge for:

  • Broken childhoods
  • Loneliness
  • Mental illness
  • Lack of approval
  • Multiple failures
  • Money issues

We seek revenge by posting hate-filled comments on the internet instead of dealing with the reason we are seeking revenge.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

When people act foolishly and selfishly, life catches up with them.

These actions turn into regrets and failure.

You don’t need to seek revenge.

You need to worry about your own challenges and focus on building people up rather than tearing down the sandcastles of your enemies.

Your critics, haters and enemies will destroy themselves by being who they are.

All you can hope is that in the process of them destroying themselves, they simultaneously find themselves causing them to quit their bad behavior.

I’ve given up seeking revenge multiple times and I’ve always found that the person I sought to deal with had in fact been dealt the lesson they needed by life.

You can kill revenge.

How? Fight it with forgiveness. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and force yourself to see with what they’re dealing with.

Through this lens, you can learn the difficult art of forgiveness. I personally suck at forgiveness, but I’m working on it.

Anything that kills revenge is worth learning.

If nothing else, think of your time.

Revenge takes time.

A simple reframe for me is “What could I be doing with my time instead of thinking about revenge?”

The answer is always a good one.

I’m celebrating more than five years of not giving in to the temptation of revenge. I still have thoughts of revenge, but now they are nothing more than empty fantasies which I wouldn’t dream of acting on.

“Let sleeping dogs lie” as my grandpa used to say. You’ve got better things to do with your time.