Without Context Words Are Empty And Impotent
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.