Hesse wrote about the eternal state of change and constant flow of the river and yet somehow it gave the perception of permanence to the traveler (often times it was an obstacle on their journey). He described the timeless nature of the river as simultaneously existing at both the source and destination, the beginning and end. When individuals are mired with thoughts and concerns tied to life in this world, which eastern philosophy refers to as 'samsara', unhappiness is usually accompanied. In order to release one from the confines of sadness, all one has to do is to see their connection to 'the source' and 'destination' like the river and realize that their unhappiness is linked to trying to hold on to something that is temporal in the first place.
Here in Austin, there is a river that runs through the center of town (called Town Lake), officially dividing the city into the North and South. It is part of the Colorado River and was established as a reservoir in the 1960's. Hundreds of people walk, hike, or jog around the lake everyday. The trail around the lake is dressed in a canopy of mature trees which provide shade and protection from the noises of the city. There are also bridges and businesses around the lake where people can be seen exercising, fishing, or enjoying themselves.
I discovered a rowing club that rents various boats to anyone wanting to enjoy the lake. My favorite rowing activity quickly became the stand-up paddle board. It's basically an 8 ft surf board where one stands in the center and uses a tall oar to paddle themselves up and down the river (It reminds me of the skiff the boatmen in Siddhartha used to take people across the river and listen to the water).
Sometimes after sweating at my gym located south of town, I enjoy cooling off on the water while avoiding the nightmare of traffic that inhibits efficient travel back to my apartment just north of the river. I usually go out onto the lake halfheartedly stabilized on the teetering board secretly hoping to lose balance in order to experience the coolness of the water and wash away the sweat earned from my workout. It feels great but most people close enough to observe the plunge still laugh as it looks convincingly unplanned (sometimes it's truly an accident).
I've noticed with maturity people become better listeners. They speak less, and say more. It's something that I'm learning to respect. Out on the water, I'm all by myself. While there are often other people sharing the lake, we are usually "passing ships" to one another. I've tried "listening" to the water as Siddhartha learned to do on his journey. I've heard the movement of gentle currents, the faintness of laughter, the splashes of fish kissing the sky, and the sound of 'quiet'.
I've lived most of my life in the close company of family, friends, or roommates. It's only been recently that I've lived on my own and been given the opportunity to grow and appreciate this solitude. I am responsible for me. I get to cook and eat what I wish, clean up after myself, and spend my time going and coming as I please. I read, write, and think (sometimes I even talk to myself). It all helps to make me a better listener and I feel blessed to be able to do so.
For this, I'm truly grateful.