Herman Hesse was great influence on my developing mind. I read most of his works as a teenager and his worldview and insights have stuck with me ever since.
I reread some Hesse classics every once in a while to get refreshed on timeless wisdom.
My pen name comes from the title of a Herman Hesse novel: Narcissus and Goldmund. I went through it again recently and want to share my interpretation as it relates to game.
The story begins in one of Hesse’s fantastical utopian like university/monastery’s. In the monastery, the best and brightest boys of the land are brought to study under the most knowledgeable and influential scholars, monks, and intellectuals.
The place is a bastion for self-improvement and the pupils are encouraged to follow their true talents and skills. Most skills are acceptable as long as you have a great enough self-knowledge to undertake them. Students study everything from scripture to black magic.
Goldmund arrives at the age of 17 and is determined to become a monk. During his first few weeks there, he is convinced by some of his classmates to sneak off at night and go into town to meet up with some girls. It is Goldmund’s first taste of a girl and he is obsessed with the excitement she brings. But he is conflicted because of his studies.
He meets master Narcissus, an extremely gifted young teacher, and a master of reading people–they immediately bond. Narcissus is intrigued by Goldmund’s way of thinking and seeing the world. It is highly different than what he is used to and he see’s the potential within.
They have deep discussions about life and learn from one another. Some choice quotes from their first conversations:
“Discovering in every man that which distinguishes him from others is to know him.”
“It is not our purpose to become each other, it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each is the others opposite and complement.”
“You think you’re not learned or logical or pious enough for me. On the contrary, you are not enough yourself.”
During one of their conversations, Narcissus reveals to Goldmund that he is not meant for life as a monk and is meant to be an artist, meant to take in the world completely instead of living behind the monastery walls. That one conversation frees Goldmund from the self imposed shackles of his mind and changes his life’s trajectory.
Goldmund lives a life of adventure, women, homelessness, violence, nature, and self reflection. He takes in every experience and it becomes a part of him.
On one of his travels he comes across a sculpture that touches his very core. He makes a pilgrimage to find the artist. The artist brings out Goldmund’s true talents and he creates a masterpiece. After that it is back to life on the road, this time as a truly confident man.
Goldmund reunites with Narcissus and they continue their conversations and debates–the choice amount of quotes during these pages is incredible, a must read.
The amount of respect between the two very different men is a great example of what it means to have a mind that is developed and a spirit of self-assuredness.
This is not a quick, or extremely entertaining book to read. Hesse wrote it in the 1920’s and the story takes place at some point in medieval times.
But you are guaranteed to gain a deeper understanding of human nature.
Goldmund is a great player, but far from perfect. He becomes at his most powerful when he produces work that he is proud of and recognized for. Then he is ready to go out into the world and help others.
Women love him, it is his attitude and spirit they crave. He is not ashamed in saying exactly what he wants and taking what he desires. These are traits that have been lost in modern times, suppressed by the culture, and never realized by most men.
I highly recommend reading the book, you will learn more from it than any game textbook.