How does your experience affect your character?

An arrogant man searching for Enlightenment once said “I could have learned more quickly and easily in every inn in a prostitute’s quarter, amongst the carriers and dice players.” (Hesse 13). That same man, though much later, had also come to his own realization that “This path is stupid, it goes in spirals, perhaps circles, but whichever way it goes, [he] will follow it.” (Hesse 78). What had changed in him? His experience. Despite the trivialities that he faced, he chose to remain faithful to the Buddha and continue this difficult path regardless of his pain all in search of Enlightenment. This once-arrogant man had wised as he lived through famine, hunger, and pain, but also had often deviated to the life and sins of a regular man.

Siddhartha’s life was never a straight line or a clear path but one filled with rocks and fallen trees forcing him to climb or crawl. Not only does this growth make Siddhartha an appealing character, but it almost mirrors our own lives. Starting from nothing pushes us towards certain paths but somewhere along the way, we realize our true calling though the things we learned are what matter the most. We’re repetitively taught lessons that better us, such as patience, though it is not until we are put into a place where it is needed that we really understand it. Experience is not only found in our experiences, but also in those of others; seeing their mistakes and obstacles or watching them work teaches us how to act. Without experience, we are nothing but empty shells wandering the Earth.

Can’t experience be bought? Be created? The short answer; no. The long answer; no, it can’t be bought or created. Forcing “experience” down someone’s throat isn’t going to make them any better and on the contrary, it might damage that person. People’s circumstance, however, can direct how a person might live. A rich man might see a phone as nothing more than just a device not worth their time while a poor man may see it as gold. How a person goes about their lives may also affect their experience. A happy man may put their own happiness above all else, similar to how an Epicurean would, while a somber person may be more pessimistic. Every experience gained is unique and completely dependent on the person and what happens. It’s your freedom to choose your own path that will shape you.

No matter what wisdom you gain or things you’ve experienced, it always comes back to what you do with it. Knowledge can become a lock, keeping people from experiencing new things rather than a key to open new possibilities. Early in Akira Kurosawa’s 7 Samurai, those more experienced samurai refused to help the peasants purely because they believed that the peasants were “too far below them”. They refused to use their knowledge and experience as hardened samurai to help others whereas only those with a good heart, those who have witnessed the dire situation, were willing to help.

You are not born who you are; who you are is constantly changing. Every day, new things come into your life, whether it’s news that you’re being accepted into a college or a blog post assigned to you by your English teacher. The ever-changing world is a fountain of life and death, amazements and tragedy, all sorts of things that one day, we will all witness. The only thing that separates me and you is how we witness it.

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