Purgitorial Paying for the Sins of One's Time
On this plain we saw an old gentleman of a worthy aspect, with a long beard, who drearily led a large following of some ten thousand men in black. He had a melancholy and hopeless air; and Mozart said:
“Look, there’s Brahms. He is striving for redemption, but it will take him all his time.”
I realized that the thousands of men in black were the players of all those notes and parts in his scores which according to divine judgment were superfluous.
“Too thickly orchestrated, too much material wasted,” Mozart said with a nod.
And thereupon we saw Richard Wagner at the head of a host just as vast, and felt the pressure of those thousands as they clung and closed upon him. Him, too, we watched as he dragged himself along with slow and sad step.
“In my young days,” I remarked sadly, “these two musicians passed as the most extreme contrasts conceivable.”
“Yes, that is always the way. Such contrasts, seen from a little distance, always tend to show their increasing similarity. Thick orchestration was in any case neither Wagner’s nor Brahms’ personal failing. It was a fault of their time.”
“What? And have they got to pay for it so dearly?” I cried in protest.
“Naturally. The law must take its course. Until they have paid the debt of their time it cannot be known whether anything personal to themselves is left over to stand to their credit.”
“But they can’t either of them help it!”
“Of course not. They cannot help it either that Adam ate the apple. But they have to pay for it all the same.”
“But that is frightful.”
“Certainly. Life is always frightful. We cannot help it and are responsible all the same. One’s born and at once one is guilty. You must have had a remarkable sort of religious education if you did not know that….”
--Herman Hesse in Steppenwolfe