Translation of excerpts from Hermann Hesse's "Sense of self is fun"
“Eigensinn macht Spaß” is a remarkable little essay by Hermann Hesse that describes views of his that are reflected in many of his novels. Key excerpts in German can be found here. My partial translation follows.
There is for no one a better path toward formation and fulfillment than that of the most complete representation of one’s own nature. “Be yourself” is the ideal law, at least for the young person, there is no other path toward truth and development.
Because you happen to be the way you are, you should neither be jealous or disdaining of others for their Otherness, and you shall not ask for the “Rightness” of your nature, but shall accept your soul and its needs just like your body, your name, your origin, etc.: as something given, inescapable, which one ought to say Yes to and which one must vouch for, even if the whole world were against it.
The person, however, who once has felt the courage to oneself and who heard the voice of one’s own destiny, alas, they couldn’t care less about politics, be it now monarchistic or democratic, revolutionary or conservative positions. They care about other things. Their sense of self is like the deep, magnificient, ordained sense of self of every grass blade, directed towards nothing but one’s own growth. “Egoism” if one wants to call it that. Yet this egoism is wholly different from the disreputable one of the money collector or of the power greedy.
Against the infamities of life are the best weapons: courage, sense of self, and patience. Courage strengthens, sense of self is enjoyment, and patience provides calm.
If you are born to live an own life and not a commonplace one, then you will find the path toward your own personality and your own life, even if it is a difficult path.
One often finds very strong people, who quickly fail, and finds very gentle and weak ones, who despite illness and weakness handle life splendidly and leave their mark even in bearing it.
Every one of us must find for themselves what is allowed and what is forbidden — what is forbidden for them. One can never do anything forbidden and still be a great scoundrel. And also the other way round. In the end it is merely a question of convenience. Who is too convenient to think for themselves and be their own judge, that person will simply bend to the prohibitions the way they happen to be. It is easy for them. Others feel imperatives within themselves; to them things are forbidden, which every gentleman does on a daily basis, and things are allowed to them, which are otherwise frowned upon. Everyone has to stand for themselves.
All things, which one does against one’s instincts and against one’s inner nature, for the sake of others, are not good, and must be paid for dearly sooner or later.
I live in my dreams. The other people also live in dreams, but not in their own. That is the difference.
My task was to find my own destiny, not an arbitrary one, and to live it, fully and unbowed.
The real personalities have it more difficult on earth, but also more beautiful, they do not enjoy the protection of the herd, but enjoy the pleasures of their own fantasy, and must, when they overcome the years of their youth, carry a great responsibility.
Our task as a human is: to take within our own, unique, personal life a step further from animal toward human being.
Was dich zu erdrücken drohte,
Zeigt sich freundlich, atmet Geist,
Ist ein Führer, ist ein Bote,
Der dich hoch und höher weist.
Solitude is the path, on which destiny wants to lead the human to themselves.
to be continued