Goethe’s Faust—Learning How To Make Life Meaningful



Without Context Words Are Empty And Impotent
Dec. `77

For me, after my bicycle trip, it was back to washing pots and pans.
However, my accumulated work seniority enabled me, after a time, to
move into a midnight custodian job. With my days freed up, I wanted to take a class, but it was already too late in the semester to do that. Instead  I asked my old professor, Dr. Gill, if I could sit in on his class. I had already taken that class, but he was teaching it to an honor’s section of students, and I wanted to see what that was all about. The class, his philosophy through literature class, was a favorite of mine. Dr. Gill knew I loved the Faust story, so he let me sit in. I was
surprised to find that the class was taught exactly the same to the
honor’s students, and, even though I wasn’t there to be graded, I
still took the final exam. Dr. Gill liked what I wrote so much that he
suggested I try to publish it. That was a confidence booster. Here’s
the exam—a Heidegger take on Faust.

Power And The Word

After a time, Faust lost all faith in the power of words. Words are a
form of “disclosure,” that’s all. Without context, meaning, and
understanding words are empty and impotent. Goethe’s play was
important because it depicted the kinship that exists between
discourse and understanding. When the growth of Faust was looked at
from start to finish, it was no longer just about words; it was a
representational model of a powerful sense of life lived meaningfully.

When Faust used Mephistopheles to acquire power, havoc and misery
followed. In the grip of care, the care of pure desire, Faust wielded
great power and caused great harm. Many innocents suffered and even died because of Faust’s reckless behavior and ignorance. He intended good, but he produced the opposite. After many disappointments, he discovered that, like the word without understanding, power without scruples caused untold disasters. A great deal of tragedy came to pass before Faust learned that very important lesson.

Unrestricted power always caused harm, and even power directed toward the success of “high ideals” was poignantly wedded to discourse and understanding. Faust made many mistakes, but he never stopped learning from those mistakes. “The man who desires the impossible,” Manto said, “that man I love. Man errs as long as he strives…” To succeed, Faust, like so many before and after him, had to fail. Until Faust began to understand the most powerful of discourses, he remained a victim of his own ignorance.


About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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2 Responses to Goethe’s Faust—Learning How To Make Life Meaningful

  1. Mèo Lười Việt says:

    This post reminds me of the film “Ghost Rider” and there’s st similar to the Balzac novel “The Wild Ass’s skin”… The deal of Raphael and the old man to get all the glitter of life… But he had to pay too soon after realizing what is the really meaningful thing of life… That’s love of pure-hearted Paulina, not the icy “love” of greedy Foedora.

    • bwinwnbwi says:

      God! I hope you are still alive, but if not, I’ll be joining you soon–as Frank Sinatra use to sing (he’s dead)–that’s Life and…….it doesn’t last forever!

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