Thursday, August 24, 2017

Fathers And Sons: A Way Of Respectfully Resolving Disagreement

"Siddhartha said:  "With your permission, Father, I have come to tell you that I wish to leave your house tomorrow and join the ascetics.  I wish to become a Samana.  I trust my father will not object."
The Brahmin was silent so long that the stars passed across the small window and changed their design before the silence in the room was finally broken.  His son stood silent and motionless with his arms folded.  The father, silent and motionless, sat on the mat, and the stars passed across the sky.  Then his father said:  'It is not seemly for Brahmins to utter forceful and angry words, but there is displeasure in my heart.  I should not like to hear you make this request a second time.'
The Brahmin rose slowly.  Siddhartha remained silent with folded arms.
'Why are you waiting?' asked his father.
'You know why,' answered Siddhartha.
His father left the room displeased and lay down on his bed."
The father has trouble sleeping and gets up hourly and sees his son still standing arms folded.
"And in the last hour of the night, before daybreak, he returned again, entered the room and saw the youth standing there.  He seemed tall and a stranger to him.
'Siddhartha,' he said, 'why are you waiting?'
'You know why.'
'Will you go on standing and waiting until it is day, noon, evening?'
'I will stand and wait.'
'You will grow tired, Siddhartha.'
'I will grow tired.'
'You will fall asleep, Siddhartha.'
'I will not fall asleep.'
'You will die, Siddhartha.'
'I will die.'
'And would you rather die than obey your father?'
'Siddhartha has always obeyed his father.'
'So you will give up your project?'
'Siddhartha will do what his father tells him.'
The first light of day entered the room.  The Brahmin saw that Siddhartha's knees trembled slightly, but there was no trembling in Siddhartha's face;  his eyes looked far away.  Then the father realized that Siddhartha could no longer remain with him at home - that he had already left him.
The father touched Siddhartha's shoulder.
'You will go into the forest,' he said, 'and become a Samana.  If you find bliss in the forest, come back and teach it to me.  If you find disillusionment, come back, and we shall again offer sacrifices to the gods together.  Now go, kiss your mother and tell her where you are going."

These are not, of course, ordinary men.  Siddhartha went on to find enlightenment in the forest to become the Buddha.   But then everyone has the capacity to do extraordinary things.

The way they speak to each shows what true respect sounds like.  I particularly like the father's expression of displeasure:
 'It is not seemly for Brahmins to utter forceful and angry words, but there is displeasure in my heart.  I should not like to hear you make this request a second time.'
Just imagine our president saying these words to a New York Times reporter at a press conference.

This comes from the first chapter of Herman Hesse's Siddhartha.  Translated by Hilda Rosner.  You can read the whole book at , though it may be a different translator.


  1. Steve, a beautiful post and yet you have a Blog roll that lists "The Immoral Minority" which routinely trolls disrespect and conflict.

    Which is your peace?

    1. Glad you liked this post, and yes, you raise a good question. Gryphen, the blogger at Immoral Minority, was part of a group of early political Anchorage bloggers as we were all trying to figure out what we were doing. One thing we did was link to each other. IM and this blog are two of that early group that are still active. For the most part we agree on content, but as you point out, not on style. But I get a fair number of hits from IM and I'd like to think it's good for his readers to see a gentler version. And he has lots of news and videos I probably wouldn't otherwise see.
      Finally, there's the prisoner's dilemma argument for why Gryphen's style is a useful strategy. This post spells out how the prisoner's dilemma works.

  2. Just think of the mud, the blood and the beer a boy named Sue could have saved making peace with his old man had he read this first.

    For he record I have not encountered a blog or blogger from Alaska that I can wholly disagree with or find particular offensive. iowa has nothing comparable. Nearby South Dakota has several outstanding bloggers.


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