Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse is a riddle of a book, more like a philosophy lecture than a novel. Perhaps I expected better of it. Perhaps I've been reading too much Buddhist literature, some of which may be derivative. Perhaps it's about the difference(s) between Zen and more-orthodox Buddhism. Perhaps the translation I found, by Hilda Rosner, turned Hesse's poetry into a pedestrian parable. Perhaps I'm just not ready for it yet.

But for whatever reason(s), Siddhartha didn't make me prick my ears until near its end, when the title character tells his friend:

"... Knowledge can be communicated, not wisdom. One can find it, live it, be fortified by it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate it and teach it. I suspected this when I was still a youth and it was this that drove me away from teachers. There is one thought I have had, Govinda, which you will again think is a jest or folly: that is, in every truth the opposite is equally true. For example, a truth can only be expressed and enveloped in words if it is one-sided. Everything that is thought and expressed in words is one-sided, only half the truth; it all lacks totality, completeness, unity. When the Illustrious Buddha taught about the world, he had to divide it into Samsara and Nirvana, into illusion and truth, into suffering and salvation. One cannot do otherwise, there is no other method for those who teach. But the world itself, being in and around us, is never one-sided. Never is a man or a deed wholly Samsara or wholly Nirvana; never is a man wholly a saint or a sinner. This only seems so because we suffer the illusion that time is something real. Time is not real, Govinda. I have realized this repeatedly. And if time is not real, then the dividing line that seems to lie between this world and eternity, between suffering and bliss, between good and evil, is also an illusion."

... and a couple of pages later, when the protagonist continues:

"This," he said, handling it, "is a stone, and within a certain length of time it will perhaps be soil and from the soil it will become plant, animal or man. Previously I should have said: This stone is just a stone; it has no value, it belongs to the world of Maya, but perhaps because within the cycle of change it can also become man and spirit, it is also of importance. That is what I should have thought. But now I think: This stone is stone; it is also animal, God and Buddha. I do not respect and love it because it was one thing and will become something else, but because it has already long been everything and always is everything. I love it just because it is a stone, because today and now it appears to me a stone. I see value and meaning in each one of its fine markings and cavities, in the yellow, in the gray, in the hardness and the sound of it when I knock it, in the dryness or dampness of its surface. There are stones that feel like oil or soap, that look like leaves or sand, and each one is different and worships Om in its own way; each one is Brahman. At the same time it is very much stone, oily or soapy, and that is just what pleases me and seems wonderful and worthy of worship. But I will say no more about it. Words do not express thoughts very well. They always become a little different immediately they are expressed, a little distorted, a little foolish. And yet it also pleases me and seems right that what is of value and wisdom to one man seems nonsense to another."

That's poetic, and important.

(cf. My Religion (2000-11-06), UnsystematicTheology (2002-03-15), Most Important (2002-05-16), 2008-03-23 - Sunrise Service at Seneca Creek, ... ) - ^z - 2009-08-24