Sunday, June 14, 2015

Adventures Are Myriad

Some people thrive on surprise and are more willing to take risks, other folks are the opposite—more comfortable with predictability, structure and what is familiar. Psychologists offer their own explanations based on the type of person and their traits. Temperament is another explanation of how people learn and behave.

One my favorite books is Narcissus and Goldman, by Hermann Hesse (German: 2 July 1877 – 9 August 1962). He describes the lives of two friends who are similar and very different. They meet in a monastery. Narcissus is older and preparing to be a monk, while young Goldmund is brought by his father to live at the monastery and be trained.

The two bond in friendship and Goldmund comes to revere Narcissus and tries to emulate him. The two share in the practice of prayer and austerity. They have deep conversations, and Narcissus soon observes that Goldmund might not be cut out for a monastic life. Goldmund is handsome and has an earthiness not easily given over to the cerebral disciplines. Narcissus intimates this to Goldmund but it hurts the young devotee.

Before long, Goldmund leaves the safety of the monastery to explore and discover life in all its aspects. His adventures are myriad and he throws himself with abandon into every experience, tasting life and death, becoming an acclaimed artist, knowing many loves, accumulating vast experience and growing wise while he finds his true nature being one with the world. He never forgets Narcissus, but is following his own course which pulls him inexorably forward.

Narcissus remains austere and in sacred study. His life is strictly disciplined and he becomes an initiate of the inner verities of the spiritual realm. He knows his loneliness and accepts it. He gains peace through rational thought and surrender to the divine.

Through plot twists and turns, Narcissus enters Goldmunds life at the end and saves him from execution.

I identify strongly with both of the characters and it is why I have read and re-read this masterpiece.

Some of my other favorite books are by Russians: Anna Karenina, and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (28 August 1828 – 20 November 1910), and The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (11 November 1821 – 9 February 1881).

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