What's All This Then?

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What's All This Then?

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Siddhartha
by Hermann Hesse

Field-Tested by Kevin Broome

on a train between Madrid and Barcelona, Spain

It was a strange sense of limbo to be riding a train on New Year's Day, reflecting on past and future while not feeling as though I was truly existing in either. Behind me lay Madrid and the year 1998; the night before spent with thousands of revelers in the Puerta Del Sol, eating grapes and dancing beneath a champagne rain as the clock struck midnight. Ahead of me lay Barcelona, and the rest of Europe, the world, fate & love and all grand romantic notions that accompany a hellbent kid with a ticket around the globe.

But, for the moment, there was only the blur of countryside in my periphery as I sank ever deeper into Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha. It had been a going-away present from a friend. “Read it,” he'd told me. “It will change your life.”

There was no strategic plan behind reading Hesse in that instant. While A Moveable Feast had proved a fitting narrative in Paris, and Don Quixote a trusty guide through Seville, the choice of Siddhartha was born more out of that sense of being nowhere than being anywhere particular at all.

It will read differently if you are older; no doubt it would read differently to me now. But like I said, I was hellbent. The story of a young man rejecting societal expectations and material wealth and setting out on a journey of self-discovery that ultimately leads to enlightenment could not have wrung more true to my ideals at that time. It struck me immediately as possessing the wisdom that I had left home without realizing I would need. I read it from cover to cover over the course of the train ride. I didn't even notice the sunset; the first day of the new year was quickly slipping away.

1999. Already there were reports that in a year's time, all the computers in the world would come crashing down as the clocks flipped to zeros and the human race tumbled into chaos. In my own smaller circle of existence, I knew that there were decisions to be made about where I was going and how I would get there. Indeed, there were greater events on the horizon, and promises to be kept. But that could all wait. In those last remaining moments of the journey, I closed the book, adjusted my seat, and focused on the breath.

Kevin Broome is a writer and creative strategist, working as the senior designer at Karyo Edelman. For more information about Kevin, visit his website.

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