by SHANNON GLEBA, Copy Editor
The college experience and young adult years are a time for self exploration and finding a path in life. However, sometimes this path is not clear and the journey can be frustrating.
Manhattan College requires all students to take a religion course called “The Nature and Experience of Religion,” which allows students to examine their own personal meaning in the lens of religious themes. Some sections of this course have class discussion and learning based on the novels “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho and “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse.
As a student in this class, I can truly say these two books have been able to evoke meaningful discussion among my peers and have allowed me to evaluate my own life based on the presented ideas.
“The Alchemist” is a bestselling novel that follows the life of a shepherd boy named Santiago as he follows the omens in his life in search of his personal legend.
The shepherd boy’s journey starts after asking a gypsy to evaluate the meaning of his dreams. The old woman tells Santiago that his dreams are predicting his future and that he will find treasure. Next, Santiago meets an old king who encourages him to travel to Egypt in order to find said treasure.
Along his journey, Santiago is pulled into situations that challenge his faith and trust in the omens placed in his life. Every single roadblock seems like it will lead Santiago to give up, however he is resilient and follows his path to an uncertain success.
While this story could have been one that shows immediate satisfaction of Santiago’s goals, the author realistically describes the plights of the human experience, especially during the formative early adult years.
I often find myself searching for the answer to questions about the meaning of my life and whether or not the steps I am taking are beneficial to my end goal. Santiago’s story of both hardship and triumph encourages me to overcome the parts of my life that cause uncertainty.
Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha” also explores the idea of entering into unfamiliar situations to truly find peace within ourselves. Just as “The Alchemist” follows the story of a young boy hoping to find his life’s meaning, “Siddhartha” does as well.
This novel describes the journey of a man named Siddhartha as he seeks teachers at every stage in his life, in hopes of finding true happiness. At certain points, Siddhartha seems to reach the goal of his life, however he is fooled and must start over.
As a young boy, Siddhartha seems to be living the perfect life as the beloved son of a Brahmin, a Hindu priest. However, he feels as if his life is unfulfilling and leaves home in search of a more satisfying future.
Along his journey, Siddhartha struggles to follow the teachings and advice of others, and always seems to not be able to fully believe what others are telling him. He never allows himself to be fully present and open to those helping him along his journey, until he is ultimately placed in their shoes.
It seems like many of my peers, in addition to myself, are in a similar state of mind to Siddhartha. We simultaneously feel like we know what to do, but are very lost at the exact same time. However, Hesse’s “Siddhartha” provides reassurance that the answer to life’s most meaningful questions can come at the most unexpected times, and from people we would least expect.
The journey of self-realization and the ability to find the true meaning of life will never be an easy task. But, these novels portray this process in a very relatable way that can truly capture the reader’s attention.
While the main characters are experiencing very specific events in their lives, every person will be able to find a bit of themselves within the storylines. In the end, humans are constantly on the search to find meaning and an explanation for the life they are living.
I think every person should read these novels, especially college students hoping to find guidance through a very uncertain part of their life. The unbelievable detail and underlying tones of “Siddhartha” and “The Alchemist” make reading them feel effortless, however their symbolism and meaning come with great reward.