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The Suicide (from Hesse's 'Klein & Wagner')

He put out the light and left the room. Outside rain was falling, cool and quiet. Nowhere was there a light, nowhere a person, nowhere a sound, only the rain. He turned his face up and let the rain run over his forehead and cheeks. No sky visible. How dark it was. How glad he would have been to see a star.
  Quietly, he walked through the streets, soaked by the rain. He met not a soul, not a dog; the world was lifeless. At the lake shore he went from boat a boat. All were drawn far up on land and fastened tightly with chains. Not until he had wandered far into the city's outskirts did he find one that hung loosely on the rope and could be untied. He cast it loose and placed the oars in the oarlocks. Swiftly, the shore vanished; it fell away into greyness as if it had never been. Only greyness and blackness and rain remained in the world, grey water, wet water, grey lake, wet sky, all of it without end.
  Far out in the lake, he drew in the oars. The time had come, and he was content. Formerly, at moments when dying seemed inevitable to him, he had always gladly delayed a little longer, postponed the thing until the next day, given living one more try. There was no more of that. His little boat, that was it, was his small, limited, artificially guarded life - but the expanse of greyness all round was the world, was the universe and God. It was not hard to let himself drop into that; it was easy, it was gladdening.
  He sat on the edge of the boat with his feet dangling into the water. Slowly he leaned forward, leaned forward, until the boat behind him slid briskly away. He was in the universe.
  Into the small number of moments he continued to live, far more experience was packed than into the forty years in which he had been on the way to this goal.
  It began this way: At the moment he fell, when for the fraction of a second he hung between the edge of the boat and the water, it came to him that he was committing suicide, a piece of childishness, something not bad, certainly, but comical and rather foolish. The pathos of wanting to die and the pathos of dying itself coalesced within him. It amounted to nothing. His dying was not necessary, not anymore. It was desirable, it was fine and welcome, but it was no longer necessary. Since that flashing fraction of a second in which he had let himself drop from the side of the boat with his whole volition, with complete renunciation of all volition, with total surrender, dropping into the maternal womb, into the arm of God - since that moment dying had ceased to have any meaning. It was all so simple, all so wonderfully easily, after all; there were no longer any abysses, any difficulties. The whole trick was to let yourself go. That thought shone through his whole being as the result of his life: let yourself go. Once you did that, once you had given up, yielded, surrendered, renounced all props and all firm ground underfoot, once you listened solely to the council in your own heart, everything was gained. Then everything was good, there was no longer any dread, no longer any danger.
  This was achieved, this great thing, this only thing: he had let himself fall. That he was letting himself fall into water and into death would not have been necessary; he could just as well have let himself fall into life. But that did not matter much, was not important. He would live, he would come again. But then he would no longer need suicide or any of these strange detours, any of these toilsome and painful follies, for then he would have overcome the dread.
  Wonderful thought: a life without dread! To overcome dread: that was bliss, that was redemption. How he had suffered from dread all his life, and now, when death already had him by the throat, he no longer felt it, no dread, no horror, only smiles, releases, consent. He suddenly knew what dread was, and that it could be overcome only by one who recognised it. You dreaded a thousand things, pain, judgment, your own heart. You felt dread of sleep, dread of awakening, of being alone, of cold, of madness, of death - especially of that, of death. But all these were only masks and disguises. In reality there was only one thing you dreaded: letting yourself fall, taking the step into uncertainty, the little step beyond all the securities that existed. And whoever had once surrendered himself, one single time, whoever had practiced the great act of confidence and entrusted himself to fate, was liberated. He no longer obeyed the laws of earth; he had fallen into space and swung along in the dance of the constellations. That was it. It was so simple. Every child could understand that, could know that.
  He did not think this as one thinks thoughts. He lived, felt, touched, smiled, and tasted it. He tasted, smiled, saw, and understood what life was. He saw the creation of the world and saw the downfall of the world, like two armies moving in opposite directions, never stopping, eternally on the march. The world was constantly being born and constantly dying. All life was a breath exhaled by God. All dying was a breath inhaled by God. One who had learned not to resist, to let himself fall, died easily, was born easily. One who resisted, who suffered dread, died hard, was born reluctantly.
  In the grey darkness of the rain above the nocturnal lake the drowning man saw the drama of the world mirrored and represented: suns and stars rolled up, rolled down; choirs of men and animals, spirits and angels, stood facing one another, sang, fell silent, shouted; processions of living beings marched toward one another, each misunderstanding himself, hating himself, and hating and persecuting himself in every other being. All of them yearned for death, for peace; their goal was God, was the return to God and remaining in God. This goal created dread, for it was an error. There was no remaining in God. There was no peace. There was only the eternal, eternal, furious, holy being exalted and inhaled, assuming form and being dissolved, birth and death, exodus and return, without pause, without end. And therefore there was only one art, only one teaching, only one secret: to let yourself fall, not to resist God's will, to cling to nothing, neither to good nor to evil. Then you were redeemed, then you were free of suffering, free of dread - only then.
  His life lay before him like a landscape with woods, valleys, and villages that could be viewed from the ridge of a high mountain range. Everything had been good, simple and good, and everything had been converted by his dread, by his resisting, to torment and complexity, to horrible knots and convulsions of wretchedness and grief. There was no woman you could not live without - and there also was no woman with whom you could not have lived. There was not a thing in the world that was not just as beautiful, just as desirable, just as joyous as its opposite. It was blissful to live, it was blissful to die, as soon as you hung suspended alone in space. Peace from without did not exist; there was no peace in the graveyard, no peace in God. No magic ever interrupted the eternal chain of births, the endless succession of God's breaths. But there was another kind of peace, to be found within your own self. Its name was: Let yourself a fall! Do not fight back! Die gladly! Live gladly!
  All the figures of his life were within him, all the faces of his love, all the guises of his suffering. His wife was pure and as guiltless as himself. Teresina smiled childishly. The murderer Wagner, whose shadow had fallen so heavily across Klein's life, smiled earnestly into his face, and his smile said that Wagner's act, too, had been one way to redemption; it too had been breath, it too a symbol, and that even killing and blood and atrocities were not things that truly existed, but only assessments of our own self-tormenting souls. He, Klein, had spent years of his life dealing with Wagner's murder, rejecting and approving, condemning and admiring, despising and imitating. Out of this murder he had created endless chains of torments, dreads, miseries. A hundred times, full of dread, he had attended his own death, had seen himself dying on the scaffold, had felt the razor blade cutting into his own throat and the bullet in his own temple - and now that he was dying the death he had feared, it was so easy, so simple, was joy and triumph. Nothing in the world need be feared, nothing was terrible - only in our delusions do we create all this fear, all this suffering for ourselves, only in our own frightened souls do good and evil, worth and worthlessness, craving and fear arise.
  The figure of Wagner vanished far in the distance,. He was not Wagner, no longer; there was no Wagner. All that had been illusion. Let Wagner die now! He, Klein, would live.
  Water flowed into his mouth and he drank. From all sides, through all his senses, water flowed in; everything dissolved in it. He was being drawn, breathed in. Beside him, pressed against him, as close together as the drops of water, floated other people; Teresina floated, the old comedian floated, his wife, his father, his mother and sister, and thousands, thousands, thousands of others, and pictures and buildings as well, Titian's Venus and Strasbourg Cathedral, everything floated, pressed close together, in a tremendous strain, driven by necessity, faster and faster, rushing madly - and this tremendous, gigantic, raging stream of forms was racing toward another stream just as fast, racing just as fast, a stream of faces, legs, bellies, animals, flowers, thoughts, murders, suicides, written books, wept tears, dense, dense, full, full, children's eyes and black curls and fishheads, a woman with a long rigid knife in her bloody belly, a young man resembling himself, face full of holy passion, that was himself at the age of 20, that vanished Klein of the past. How good that this insight too was coming to him now: that there was no time! The only thing that stood between old age and youth, between Babylon and Berlin, between good and evil, giving and taking, the only thing that filled the world with differences, opinions, suffering, conflict, war, was the human mind, the young, tempestuous, and cruel human mind in the stage of rash youth, still far from knowledge, still far from God. That mind invented contradictions, invented names; it called some things beautiful, some ugly, some good, some bad. One part of life was called love, another murder. How young, foolish, comical this mind was. One of its inventions was time. A subtle invention, a refined instrument for torturing the self even more keenly and making the world multiplex and difficult. For then man was separated from all he craved only by time, by time alone, this crazy invention! It was one of the props, one of the crutches that you had to let go, that one above all, if you wanted to be free.
  The universal stream of forms flowed on, the forms inhaled by God and the other, the contrary forms that he breathed out. Klein saw those who opposed the current, who reared up in fearful convulsions and created horrible tortures for themselves: heroes, criminals, madmen, thinkers, lovers, religious. He saw others like himself being carried along swiftly and easily, in the deep voluptuousness of yielding, of consent. Blessed like himself. Out of the song of the blessed and out of the endless cries of torment from the unblessed there rose over both universal streams a transparent sphere or dome of sound, a cathedral of music. In its midst sat God, a bright star, invisible from sheer brightness, the quintessence of light, with the music of the universal choirs roaring around in eternal surges.
  Heroes and thinkers emerged from the universal stream, prophets. "Behold, this is God the Lord and his way leads to peace," one of them cried, and many followed him. Another proclaimed that God's path led to struggle and war. One called him light, one night, one father, one mother. One praised him as tranquillity, one as movement, as fire, as coal, as judge, as comforter, as creator, as destroyer, as forgiver, as avenger. God himself did not call himself anything. He wanted to be called, wanted to be loved, wanted to be praised, cursed, hated, worshipped, for the music of the universal choirs was his temple and was his life - but he did not care what names were used to hail him, whether he was loved or hated, whether men sought rest and sleep or dance and furor in him. Everyone could seek. Everyone could find.
  Now Klein heard his own voice. He was singing. With a new, mighty, high, reverberating voice he sang loudly, loudly and resoundingly sang God's praise. He sang as he floated along in the rushing stream in the midst of the millions of creatures. He had become a profit and proclaimer. Loudly, his song resounded; the vault of music rose high; radiantly, God sat within it. The streams roared tremendously along.

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