Giorgio Delgado

The Siddhartha Effect

March 10, 2014

While chatting over some drinks with a good friend of mine we began comparing the differences behind knowledge gained through informational transfer, and knowledge gained through one's own experiences.

This obscure subject came about through our discussion over the "correct" way to raise a kid. In my friend's scenario, he would enlist his child into a privileged school and give him what my friend never had growing up. He then suggested that the crucial lessons he learned in life would just be passed on to his child through conversation.

My friend went on to argue that knowledge gained through informational transfer and knowledge gained through experience is equal, and as such, one can skip actually experiencing things in order to save time, or perhaps do something else.

I disagreed. My opposing view can be explained through a scene from the book Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse.

Siddhartha is the tale about a young boy's journey (conveniently named Siddhartha) to attain spiritual illumination. In order to reach enlightenment, Siddhartha fasts, renounces all personal possessions, and intensely meditates, eventually seeking and personally speaking with Gautam, the famous buddha, or enlightened one. Afterward, Siddhartha acknowledges the elegance of the Buddha's teachings. And although many people chose to join the Buddha's order, Siddhartha does not follow, claiming that the Buddha's philosophy, though supremely wise, does not account for the necessarily distinct experiences of each person. He argues that the individual seeks an absolutely unique and personal meaning that cannot be presented to him by a teacher; he thus resolves to carry on his quest alone.

As explained through Siddhartha's decision to leave the comfort of being alongside the wisest man in the land, he realized that the most crucial things in life cannot be taught. For that reason, the value of many teachings is not seen by those who listen, but instead they attain an idea they can only imagine in a hypothetical case, which caries no wieght and alters neither emotions nor habits.

And this is where I explained that I would grant my son (or daughter) nothing more than what any other human being is deserving of. He would attend a regular school, and hopefully a school that paints an honest picture about life's unfortunate realities. This would be done, like previously stated, because some things simply cannot be taught. The last thing I ever want is to have a child with a sense of entitlement who feels that hard work is an "uncool" trait. I don't mean to be ruthless, but there's a point that any child reaches where throwing him in a private school, with morning piano lessons, and alternating between swim, tennis, and boxing lessons, all followed by an hour of mandatory reading, actually diminishes the child's capacity to gain any meaningful life experience.

In order to truly gain wisdom, one must experience the joys, sorrows, and all the beautiful disorder of life first hand. These experiences allow us to truly incorporate life lessons into our core, and change our behavior positively in order to perhaps reach some sort of illumination just like Siddhartha ends up doing.