I remember my years as a pre-teenager in Argentina, when the only place I was allowed to hang out on my own with friends were shopping malls. But it was different. There we had cinemas and a "game-land", lots of space in the food court and sometimes they even had activities for kids our age. My mom would drop me off and pick me up at a certain time and I would have a blast. Shopping malls here, at least the ones I know, are quite different and I can't say I enjoy a cluster of people entering and exiting stores at a speed I have never noticed so clearly before. Hey, I'm not judging... I'm just not a big fan of it.
Feeling a little bit claustrophobic, I finally found Chapters. I can't say I felt any better inside either. The line up at the cash register was HUGE and the clutter of books and things was too much for my eyes. I quickly asked an attendant to check the value of my gift card so that I knew how much I could spend. "Twenty dollars" she said smiling. Great. I asked her to do some searches for me and I figured I could get two or three books without spending money from my pocket.
The attendant walked me to a computer station and asked me the names of the books I was looking for. She touched a fairly big computer screen and typed Siddhartha. I was fascinated by the technology, thinking how many great things we have accomplished as a society because of it; and how many more we could. In that split of a second I thought how easy it could be to realize its potential for bigger and better things. I fear we are ready to give technology its proper use. Maybe I'm being cynical but I think I share this thought with many people.
"Technology, its poisonous by-products, weapons of mass destruction, and inhumane repercussions are projections of the human psyche, expressing our current stage of development. They express not only our consciousness, but also our unconsciousness. 'Look at the devilish engines of destruction!' Jung wrote. 'They are invented by completely innocuous gentlemen, reasonable, respectable citizens who are everything we could wish. And when the whole thing blows up, and an indescribable hell of destruction is let loose, nobody seems to be responsible. It simply happens, and yet is all man-made'." (Daniel Pinchbeck - The Return of Quetzalcoatl"The problem with technology it's not technology itself but the intention behind the use. We are still fear driven monkeys; if our intentions are driven by fear, hence power, the use of advance technologies could be VERY dangerous and may result in a destructive outcome. "A faulty attitude creates a faulty world" (Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj - I Am That)
As I stood there having all these thoughts, four versions of Siddhartha popped up. They ranged from $6.99 to $25.99. Why the difference? I guess it's a matter of content... oh wait, no... it's about how fancy the cover is. That will change the price drastically. Is like a pair of jeans: if you go with the "no brand" ones, you will pay a fair amount -I can't really define fair at this point- If you choose "Guess" or "Gap" then be ready to spend a lot more for the exact same thing. Amazing! Branding, eh?
After finding my book digitally, the search for the physical element began. Rows and rows of shelves and shelves. Thousands of books seemed to be yelling at me "Pick me! Pick me!" all at the same time, it was deafening. Books about politics, spirituality, art, pop culture, self-help, dog training, sexual "education", etc, etc, etc; nowadays you can find books about pretty much anything, no kidding. As I was getting dizzy and was not finding what I was seeking, I was obliged to ask a second attendant for help locating what I needed. "Fiction and Literature H" there it was, my $6.99 version; sitting humbly next to a bigger and better Siddhartha. I picked up the book and without hesitation I decided to try the big computer myself to find Women that Run with Wolves, which was also suggested to me recently by Demetra, my new half sister. That one I was able to find on my own. I picked up the $10.99 version and headed over to the cash register. On my way there, I saw a book on sale called Leaders Who Changed the World and from the same collection, laying quietly under it Encounters that Changed the World. There was only these two copies left. Maybe the last ones? I stood there for a while, not knowing which one to take; both sounded appealing. I grabbed the first one and as I was walking downstairs I said to myself "Whatever, it is only eight bucks!" So, I went back and grabbed the other one. It's a book, can't harm.
For $15 I was going home with four books I was very excited to read. I still have a huge collection at home of books I brought from Argentina that haven't read yet. I know I shouldn't be buying anymore until I read all the ones I forcefully inherited from my mother -her old studio became my room 16 years ago and I made her books mine- but books are my weakness...
I read Siddhartha in three or four days. I couldn't believe how appropriate it was for the time being. My life is unfolding in such a way sometimes is hard to believe how easy it all is. Happiness is just around the corner but we are so stubborn and egotistic that we are always choosing to turn the other way. I think we will all get there eventually; after all, all four corners are part of the same block. Even if we are going in circles, missing and passing by the key to be joyful, I do believe we will see it eventually... just keep walking.
"When someone is seeking," said Siddhartha, "it happens quite easily that he only sees the thing that he is seeking; that he is unable to find anything, unable to absorb anything, because he is only thinking of the one thing he is seeking, because he has a goal, because he is obsessed with his goal; but finding means: to be free, to be receptive, to have no goal. You, O worthy one, are perhaps indeed a seeker, for in striving towards your goal, you do not see many things that are under your nose." (Herman Hesse - Siddhartha)