Incipit Vita Nova
In my life as in the lives of most men there was a critical point of
transformation from the universal to the particular, a place of terror and darkness, of
confusion and lonliness, a day of unspeakable torpor and emptiness, whose evening brought forth new stars in the sky and new eyes within me.
Shivering, I passed among the ruins of the world of my youth, overshattered
thoughts and twisted, quivering dreams, and everything I looked at dissolved
into dust and ceased to live. I saw friends whom I was ashamed of knowing, thoughts
I had thought only recently looked me in the face, and they had grown as alien and
remote as if they had been a hundred years old and never been mine. Everything
fellaway from me, and soon there was a deadly emptiness and calm all about me. I
had nothing more that was close to me, no loved ones or neighbors, and my life rose
up in me with a shudder of disgust. Every measure was full to overflowing, every altar desecrated; there was no sweetness but sickened me, no summit I had not leftbehind me. Every shimmer of purity was spent, every intimation of beauty defaced and trampled underfoot. I had nothing more to long for, nothing more to offer, nothingmore to hate. Everything that was still sacred and unravished and harmoniouswithin me had lost its eyes and voice.
All the guardians of my life had fallen asleep. All thebridges had been severed and all horizons robbed of their blue.
When everything alluring and lovable had thus fallen away, when exhausted,infinitely poor and bereft, a spiritual derelict, I awoke to awareness of my misery, I cast down my eyes, arose with heavy limbs and, like a hunted criminal who leaves his house at night, without taking leave and without closing the doors behind him, departed from all the habits of my past.
Who has ever plumbed the depths of lonliness? Who can say that he knows the land of renunciation? My head reeled as I looked down into the abyss and found no end. I wandered through the land of renunciation until my knees crumpled with weariness, and still the road lay ahead in undiminished eternity.
A still, sad night arched over me, bringing comfort, and sleep. Sleep and dreams came to me as friends to a homecomer and relieved me of a deadly burden as though lifting a pack from my shoulders.
Have you ever been lost at sea and seen a swimmer approaching from the land? Have you ever, recovering from deathly illness, taken a first draft of fresh garden air and felt the sweet surge of your reviving blood? Like such a rescued mariner and such a convalescent, I felt a swirling flood of gratitude, peace, light, and well-being that night, when it became clear to me that inscrutable beings were looking down at me with friendly eyes.
The sky looked different than ever before. The position and recurrence of the heavenly bodies entered into a fore-ordained pact of friendship with my innermost life, and the eternal established a clear and soothing bond between its laws and something within me. I felt that in my life resurrected from the desert a golden foundation had been laid, a power and a law, in accordance with which, as I felt to my glorious amazement, everything old and new within me would forever after beordered in noble crystalline forms and conclude beneficent alliances with all things and wonders of the world.
Incipit vita nova. I became a new man, still a miracle to myself, at oncepassive and active, receiving and giving, in possession of treasures, the most precious of which is perhaps till unknown to me.
Hermann Hesse 1899