“Spiritually and culturally, the twentieth century had always appeared most bleak to Hesse. It had become quite apparent to him that he could not be both creative dreamer and a “solid citizen”, a Phantasiemensch and a Bürger, as he put it.
Our era was for him one of moral depravity and intellectual mediocrity, of surface glitter, smug comfort, sham conventionality, and foolish optimism. It is a materialistic age where science has become a religion and the final criterion of value is function. Man has lost his soul in this world of money, machines and distrust. He has exchanged his spiritual peace for physical comfort. With his imagination stunted and his feelings stifled, he no longer appreciated beauty, nor is he capable of real artistic creation. All vital rapport with God and nature has been lost, reason has supplanted faith, and society has forgotten the individual.
The bourgeois represents all that is negative. A stalwart and stodgy nonentity, he is governed in all his ideals and pursuits solely by the impulse of self-preservation. He fears individuation and deliberately sacrifices the precarious but precious intensities of life for comfort and security. He is the strapping, insensitive physical specimen who enjoys health and wealth but lacks all culture. He has a sound appetite but no taste, a good deal of confidence but no ideals.
It is to him that the world belongs, while the sensitive worshippers of beauty and the earnest seekers after truth and the meaning of life are misfits and outcasts.”
What would Hesse think of the world today?
This is what comes to my mind from time to time when I think about things and events happening in the world around us today.
What would Hesse think of this, or that? Would he be disgusted? Sad? Disillusioned?
Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) had lost his ideals about the 20th century by the time it only started, lived through two world wars, two economic crises and witnessed a continual rise of capitalism. His thoughts make me realise how much ahead of his time they were and how accurate they are still – and will be in the future.
I don’t know what he would think, but I’m sure it’s only good for him he did not get the chance to experience 21st century.