“I yearn to see the blue flower I dreamed of. In my dream, it felt as though I was in some other world. For who, in the world where we live the rest of the time, would ever care so much about a flower?”
Heinrich von Ofterdingen, a novel by Novalis.
The blue flower is a symbol of German philosophy. It represents the happiness that we hope to find once we step out of childhood and into the world. First coined by engineer, philosopher, and poet Novalis (a.k.a. Friedrich von Hardenberg), the blue flower represents the passions that don’t have a clear “purpose” in society, but which promise us happiness and meaning. It is that tiny speck of color that we can’t seem to forget, no matter how unrealistic or impractical it seems.
Novalis urges us not to give up on the blue flower, even it if seems out of place “in the world where we live.” Like Heinrich, we live in a world driven by fast-paced, practical decisions. Like Novalis, we are experiencing a sea change in society: the limits of technology, the pace of information, the structure of education and the labor market, and entire political systems are in flux. It is a challenging time to pursue passions, especially those without a clear professional future–like art, music, literature, or history. As Novalis writes of his hero, “some laughed at him. Others were silent. No one told him where to go. And yet, he kept walking.”
Employers are increasingly asking for the kinds of skills taught by the humanities and liberal arts: strong writing, critical thinking, the ability to understand actions on an ethical level. But how do we get from that fascinating film course or unforgettable study-abroad to a job that makes us feel like we’re making an impact? The path to that blue flower remains elusive.
This blog is about that path. After all, Novalis was once a salt mine engineer, but he is now remembered as one of Germany’s most important poets.