Hermann Hesse, Narcissus & Goldmund (Narcissus vs. Goldmund)

…[S]een from the point of view… of reason and morality, his own life was better, righter, steadier, more orderly, more exemplary. It was a life of order and strict service, an unending sacrifice, a constantly renewed striving for clarity and justice. It was much purer, much better than the life of an artist, vagrant, and seducer of women. But seen from above, with God’s eyes – was this exemplary life of order and discipline, of renunciation of the world and of the joys of the senses, of remoteness from dirt and blood, of withdrawal into philosophy and meditation any better than Goldmund’s life? Had man really been created to live a regulated life, with hours and duties indicated by prayer bells? Had man really been created to study Aristotle and Saint Thomas, to know Greek, to extinguish his senses, to flee the world? Had God not created him with senses and instincts, with blood-colored darknesses, with the capacity for sin, lust, and despair? These were the questions around which [Narcissus’] thoughts circled when they dwelt on his friend.

Yes, and was it not perhaps more childlike and human to lead a Goldmund-life, more courageous, more noble perhaps in the end to abandon oneself to the cruel stream of reality, to chaos, to commit sins and accept their bitter consequences rather than live a clean life with washed hands outside the world, laying out a lonely harmonious thought-garden, strolling sinlessly among one’s sheltered flower beds. Perhaps it was harder, braver, and nobler to wander through the forests and along the highways with torn shoes, to suffer sun and rain, hunger and need, to play with the joys of the senses and pay for them with suffering.

At any rate, Goldmund had shown him that a man destined for high things can dip into the lowest depths of the bloody, drunken chaos of life, and soil himself with much dust and blood, without becoming small and common, without killing the divine spark within himself, that he can err through the thickest darkness without extinguishing the divine light and the creative force inside the shrine of his soul. Narcissus had looked deeply into his friend’s chaotic life, and neither his love for him nor his respect for him dwindled. Oh no, since he had seen those miraculous still-life images, radiant with inner harmony, come into being under Goldmund’s stained hands, those intent faces glowing with spirit, those innocent plants and flowers, those imploring or blessed hands, all those audacious, gentle, proud, or sacred gestures, since then he knew very well that an abundance of light and the gifts of God dwelt in the fickle heart of this artist and seducer.

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