„Nothing that lies in the past is to be regretted. My regret was for the present day, for all the countless hours and days that I lost in mere passivity and suffering. The days that brought no presents nor downfalls. But, thank God, there were exceptions. There were, though rarely, the hours that brought downfalls, that brought gifts, that tore down walls and brought my lost self back to the beating heart of the world.”
-Hermann Hesse, „Steppenwolf”
This passage is from one of my all-time favorite books by Hermann Hesse. The story of the „Steppenwolf“ is about a man who is constantly torn between his so-called inner wolf and his inner human. The wolf represents the wild, untamed and chaotic part of himself, his inner urges and impulses whilst the „human“ represents everything in him that is civil, reasonable, sane and spiritual.
I love Hesse’s work, because even nearly a century later his stories are still so timely and I can always relate to what he writes. (I can really recommend his work, though the one or the other book, is not translated all that well. If you speak German, read his work in German 😉 ) The „Steppenwolf“ is about far more, but that’s not what this post is supposed to be about. I want to get into what this quote means, because in my opinion, it contains a very important message.
It’s about a way of living.
You know those days that are just kind of OK? Where you spend most of the day just trying to somehow pass the time? Making your way from hour to hour until the end of the day, when you think: Check, another uneventful, hardly exciting day gone by, without any real ups and downs. A day that brought no presents or downfalls.
There have been times in my life where this was the case for many days at a time. During my apprenticeship, for example. I hardly ever had really boring or shitty tasks to do, but still I always had the urge to somehow just pass my time at work. First, I only wanted the weekdays to pass until the weekend finally arrived. At some point I just wanted the weeks to pass and the ultimate goal became: My next vacation.
My vacations or my travels were always the times in which I didn’t just „exist“, but felt like I was actually living.
But how depressing is that?
Was that what I wanted my life to be like? Spending most of the year just passing my time to then have only a few weeks per year where I could actually live?
There came a point where I was just completely fed up. I handed in my resignation and became self-employed. That of course did not happen over night and at the time I guess it was pretty risky, not having finished my apprenticeship, but it did work out and I now know: It was the best damn decision of my entire life.
At the time there was just no alternative for me, because I knew that I was just wasting my time. I didn’t want to live just for my vacations, I wanted to live consciously and appreciate every day of my life.
So why actually live this way? Why rather dark and bright than always grey? Why should we take the chance of being on top of the world in one moment and possibly being down in the dumps in the next, when we could just live away, just „exist“? Why should we risk these downfalls? Tear down walls?
Because that is what life is about.
Having ups and downs, blacks and whites, highs and lows, presents and downfalls. All of that means being and feeling ALIVE.
Of course you can go through life and constantly try and avoid the downfalls, the lows, the utter shocks and failures of life. You can live away and simmer in your own being and if you want to live like that- be my guest. But at the end of everything: Don’t tell me that you actually lived.
No, I’m not saying you should desperately aim for those highs, just to plunge headfirst into the next down, that isn’t the point. But what point is it to just exist, waiting for life to happen to you, waiting for your next vacation to roll by or worst case: waiting for your retirement, because then you’ll for sure have the time and money to enjoy life?
And this is why I love this quote (even ill-translated): It expresses amongst other things that it’s not just the good times in life that are rewarding or worth while. It’s also or especially the downfalls that aren’t just endured but are somehow welcome. Because they belong to life. They show us that we are alive. They bring us back to the beating heart of the world.
What’s your opinion on the topic? Do you think life should rather be dark and bright or grey? What does „living“ life mean to you?
A big thank you and lots of love to the talented photographer Alla Rodionova for the photographs. Check out her photos on her Facebook Page and if you’re somewhere around Düsseldorf, Germany, have her take some cool photos of you as well. 🙂