[NOTE: This was written for my tenth grade English class as a way to identify with the element of asceticism in the book Siddhartha]
Never before had it seemed so strangely clear to Siddhartha how closely sensuality was linked to death. — Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
Eroticism, it may be said, is assenting to life up to the point of death. — Georges Bataille, Eroticism
Day 1- 04/19/2021
I do not do a lot of things day to day. I read. I write. I consumer and lose myself. Losing oneself in consumption is the name of the game which we call life So, to abstain from consumption, to be an ascetic is to deny life itself. This makes asceticism transcendental. It rejects the immanence of the moment, of life, in favor of a will-to-transcendence, a will towards the high spirit and away from lowly matter.
I will deny a part of my life for the next 4 coming days. I decided to prohibit myself from consuming sweets, and thus far have succeeded, but this also means that if I were to eat sweets I would be engaging in a transgressive act: a crime.
After school, I got home and immediately, I wanted snacks. The object of desire was snacks. If the object is of desire, then that makes the subject desire.
My desire pulled me toward immanence, but I had to deny immanence. I had to deny life. I had to reinforce prohibition. Full of ressentiment, I had to transcend.
Today was another transcendental day. It is 11:46 PM as I write this, so the day is almost completely done. To distract myself from filling this lack I have opted to watch Batman movies, write some essays, and read some analyses of Georges Bataille. Even now I want to eat just some ice cream but I must stop myself. So much wasted time. This makes really no sense (by this I mean this activity). I deny myself, I deny my desires, I deny life. Such an irreligious practice. Transcendentalism in the classroom. The things they are teaching kids these days… am I right? I got home from school and immediately started reading Bataille’s Peak. Then I began to watch Batman movies and I’m actually still binge-watching them. I plan to write an essay on my daily experience from a Bataillean perspective, which I do every day. I just have to put filler in here. Sequels are sometimes never as good as the first movie that they are a sequel to. I think I’ll go have some apple juice now.
Today, at a birthday celebration for my friend Marc, I ate half a piece of cake. I forgot about the prohibition as there was a lot of shared laughter. One forgets prohibition in continuous existence. I didn’t realize I transgressed the limit until after the fact, so it wasn’t consciously done. I don’t feel much different. I didn’t fail, because I didn’t eat the cake out of my desires but rather out of my social obligations. Thus, did I really transgress anything? After school, when I was almost home, I felt something when I realized I couldn’t eat sweets. It wasn’t anguish, despair, or sadness. No. Those are too radical of terms to apply. It was just a sort of discouraging feeling. The cake didn’t really taste that good. I didn’t even finish my piece. I don’t think I want to eat sweets after this week to be quite honest. It is kind of a waste of time. Though this goes against all of my principles, I think that I can only adhere to my principles once I fully understand them which will hopefully be by the end of the summer. Time to go read some and write on Georges Bataille and F. W. J. Schelling. Till tomorrow.
Today I wasn’t very tempted. My stomach rumbles. I didn’t really desire sweets except for the baja blast freeze which is so good. I was able to sufficiently distract myself today by way of a few things. I talked to my friend Cobe today for a couple hours after school. We talked about my theories of surplus value, my favorable opinions on disability theory, a defense of Georges Bataille from feminist critique, and then I sort of discursevely put together a Bataillean perspective on afro-pessimism. It was an enjoyable conversation. To further distract myself, I wrote down some important things I thought of off hand during Cobe and I’s conversation within my “book” (collection of essays). I then read Eroticism by Bataille for a while. Lastly, I watched Batman media to distract myself further. It seems that I do all the same activities I did before but just longer as I have more time.
Today was another regular day which felt different from no other. I woke up tired from staying up till 3 AM reading and writing. I drove to school. I ate breakfast with Tripp and talked with him about Schelling. I had my free period. I read. Mr. Shehan wasn’t there today, so in that “second free period,” I read. Then during lunch, I did what I do every lunch: I read and wrote instead of eating. I am also writing minorly here and there during the time where class has “started” but it has not really “started” as no instruction has been given to us. I wrote something interesting about Siddhartha in English today, and I will repeat what I wrote but in a highly nuanced form in the section of this essay titled Appendix (see below).
It is 6:26 PM, and I had a desire to eat sweets when I had access to them after school but the issue is that I don’t really desire sweets. I desire one thing, and you desire the same thing: to be continuous i.e. not isolated, not individual, not separated, but in communion with another, to truly communicate with the other. This week has not led to something which I cannot communicate such as an inner experience, rather it has led to the opposite: isolated boredom (the condition of present-day capitalism).
Reflection — Written 04/23/2021
Nothing exceptional happened this week. I cannot empathize with Siddhartha even the slightest bit in terms of his asceticism. The only times I could empathize with Siddhartha is when it came to love and his materialism of immanent experience. I accidentally had a piece of chocolate cake on Wednesday. I didn’t really feel anything. I just panicked for a moment because I realized what I had done. There is really nothing to write about. There is nothing to write about not because I didn’t stop doing something which I did a lot but rather because writing must be about something. I have nothing if it is meaningless. Meaning is only generated in risk. Asceticism is not something which is risky in the sense of the word because it is calculated and useful. Hence, from the start, there was nothing to write about.
It is 7:23 PM. 1 minute until sundown.
It is 7:24 PM. I could eat sweets if I wanted now, but now there is no transgression involved as the prohibition has been removed. I’m probably not going to eat sweets for the rest of the day. I much rather read and then eat dinner.
Desire is a funny thing. It causes all of the pain of this world but at the same time without it there would be no joy, no pleasure, as what would be pleased, what would be satisfied? There would be nothing to be pleased as the subject is desire. This is the dualism of desire at the basis of the contradiction that is the human being. Our desires make us terrified because of the pain they could lead to, yet this horror which repels us also causes its opposite reaction: attraction. We are attracted to that which repels us. This is the contradiction of the human being.
Appendix — Written 04/23/2021
I have participated in an involuntary transcendentalism for an entire school week. This group life-denying asceticism was odd. All of us chose different things to prohibit. Now of course people picked the same thing such as video games but the reason I say different things is because their experiences with those video games will all be different. I choose to prohibit sweets and I don’t feel much different, and I’m not supposed to. I do not want to entertain idealism. By my latter two sentences I mean to say that the very idea that asceticism will lead to the grandest of mystical experiences is not only idealist, transcendentalism, life-denying, etc. but also something which I know a fortiori is individuating. This is truly the greatest contradiction of asceticism: the focus on the self. For a doctrine which seeks to suppress and even eliminate the self, it only reinforces the individual self. It does this by way of not only separating the self from others but precluding non-differentiation between entities. It makes existence discontinuous i.e. isolated from the universe which is the totality. I must exclude all that which is not me to constitute myself, and therefore I isolate myself through exclusion. My first now substatined claim is this: the asceticism we participated in this week is logically incoherent and is counter to itself.
Here is my second and final claim of the reflection: we should have done this differently “[i]n order to empathize with the protagonist in Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha” (Griffin). I forward just a single notion: Friday should have been a day of indulgence as this is what Siddhartha does at the end of the book. Though he doesn’t necessarily indulge himself in the conventional sense, he does turn away from life-denying idealist asceticism of transcendence towards a life-affirming Nietzshcean materialism of immanence. I will quote myself at length for an explanation of Siddhartha’s Nietzschean materialism of immanence:
Siddhartha says on page 121, to paraphrase, that he can love things such as a rock or a stream. He then says he can’t love words because they have “no hardness, no sadness, no colors, no edges, no smell, no taste” and then he ends it off with a tautology when he says that words have “nothing but words” (Hesse 121–122). He then goes on to say that words such as redemption, virtue, Sansara, and even Nirvana are just words (Hesse 122). He then goes on to say (the emphasis on ‘be’ is not mine it is Hesse’s), “There is no thing that could be Nirvana; there is only the word Nirvana” (Hesse 122). Govinda then rightly objects that these words are not just words but also thought (concepts). Then Siddhartha says that he sees no difference between words and concepts.
The meaning of what Siddartha is saying should be clear: materialism. He puts forward that he cares not for the abstractions of words and concepts but rather the things they signify. He doesn’t care for ideas, he cares for the immanent embrace of the Real which is material… It should be clear why he thinks this once we look at our answer to the second part of question 4: his materialism. He recognizes that rather than follow in the idealist paths of all other contemporary doctrine, he will affirm this world, HE WILL LOVE IT! It is in this way that his materialism is not only one of immanence but also a very Nietzschean materialism. I say it is Nietzschean because this reflects the second-part of Nietzsche’s concept of the Eternal Return: affirming the idea of living your life over and over again and loving it. (Jack)
To truly empathize with Siddhartha, we must go through what he went through, but we only go through a part of Siddhartha. This was a fun experience though. Getting to write and all.
Bataille, Georges. Eroticism. Translated by Mary Dalwood, Penguin Group, 2012.
Griffin, James. “Siddhartha Deprivation Journal.” Student, Indian Springs School, 13 Apr. 2021, indiansprings.myschoolapp.com/app/student#assignmentdetail/13541358/22655179/0/studentmyday — assignment-center.
Hesse, Hermann. Siddhartha. Translated by Susan Bernofsky, Random House, Inc., 2008.
Jack, Evan. “Siddhartha Group Work Questions (Classwork).” Student, Indian Springs School, 23 Apr. 2021, https://indiansprings.myschoolapp.com/app/student#assignmentdetail/13620830/22804762/0/studentmyday--assignment-center.
: Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha, trans. Susan Bernofsky (Random House, Inc., 2008), 69.
: Georges Bataille, Eroticism, trans. Mary Dalwood (Penguin Group, 2012), 11.