Hesse and the Hippies

Two roads diverged in a wood and I--
Please enjoy this music by Jefferson Airplane as you read

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost

As explained in this Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken, there are many paths in life that we can take. Some may be good paths, some may be bad. Siddhartha and the 1960's hippies believed in exploring these different paths.

hippie.jpgDuring the 1960’s the world saw the Hippies burst onto the social scene as a new and popular movement in the United States, Germany, and other countries. This movement was characterized by a rebellion against the societal norms, sexual revolution, freedom of expression in music and dress, communal living, drug use and generally a peaceful attitude about war. Many of these young rebels moved to a communal area of California called The Haight-Ashbury District(encyclopedia). This area was popular among the college students of San Francisco and it was here that the Hippie movement blossomed. Those of the hippie movement were very interested in finding their own way, or finding the way that fits you best in life, and it is for this reason that many left what they knew, became homeless and relied on the love and generosity of their brother and sisters.

The Hippie movement was no stranger to religious and philosophical leaders. Many of these young people followed the teachings of Ghandi, Jesus Christ, Bhippie_art.jpeguddha, and more appropriately for our class Herman Hesse or Henry David Thoreau. It is not, therefore, suprising that many in the hippie movement were attracted to Hermann Hesse’s work Siddhartha. Evidently the hippies identified with Siddhartha. They felt that the experiences in his life were a path for them to model.

In the powerful novel, Siddhartha, Herman Hesse portrays a young man in a very rigid society. Siddhartha was the son of a priestly and very noble family in India. Similarly, most of the youth involved in the hippie movement were from white, middle-class families who had lost trust in middle class values (Encyclopedia). He has spent his entire life in this sheltered society, he had been educated in the ways of his native religion. His lifestyle has not been especially rewarding to him, and as he began to grow into maturity he realized that there was much more to the world than the small part he has been familiar with. The hippies also experienced this awakening to the rest of the world as they became interested in the mysticism of eastern culture and other non-classsical areas of enlightenment. Just as Siddhartha tried religion and other practices to find his enlightened state, the hippies used drugs and psychedelic rock to explore the world. Both Siddhartha and the Hippies explored the world with the desire to bring enlightenment and purpose to their life.

How does it feel to be on your own, with no direction home, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone?
-Bob Dylan

Sources Cited:
Encyclopedia: 1968 Hippies. The History Channel Website. 2004. Available at: www.history.com/states. Accessed June 26, 2008.