Freedom Talk Is Cheap, Especially When People Don’t Want To Be Free
Exam Concluded Goethe’s Faust ‘77
Faust was ambitious, and as such, he set himself an ambitious task–to create a free country for free people. “The deed is all, the glory not,” became his battle cry. He was faced with a very difficult
problem: How do you free people who don’t want to be free? Faust knew that freedom talk was cheap. People wanted security more than
freedom. With his solution to the problem, Faust showed genius. Not only would Faust make people appreciate freedom, he would also
provide them with the conditions necessary to preserve that freedom.
If you can’t take people to the Mothers, you bring the Mothers to
the people. Faust proposed a project, and the people responded. He
set them the task to carve land from the sea. Hard work was required, but land was the reward. Eventually, with enough reclaimed land, people could establish their own independence. They would create their own country.
For Faust, further benefits, unbeknownst to the people, would
transpire. By securing land from the sea, by orchestrating a system of
dykes and dyke maintenance, the conditions would be put in place that would not only permit freedom, it would also demand it. Ultimately, the hard work and vigilance necessary to see such a major project through to completion would teach people that life and freedom were to be equally valued. Faust knew that freedom was never free. Teaching that lesson to others was his great success, and a free land for free people was his great vision realized. But, even with all that success, there was still unfinished business to attend to.
Faust, now an old man, was all but ready to say to the moment, “Abide! You are so fare, stay, remain for eternity!” With those words, Faust, would have sealed his fate and sold his soul to the devil, but he hesitated. He hesitated because his vision was not yet fully realized. Two of his subjects, a husband and wife of many years, lived within the sound of the bell of the Church. Faust knew that all that remained within hearing distance of that sound remained subject to the dictates and rules of the Church. Acting on Faust’s orders, Mephistopheles and his lieutenants went to remove the old couple from their land. The relocation of the old man and woman was necessary to avoid conflict with the Church. With the couple out of the way, Faust would secure the undisputed deed to the territory he claimed for his kingdom. Of course, the old couple could not be persuaded to leave their home and, in the scuffle, Mephistopheles’ lieutenants murdered the old man and his wife. Their unjust deaths were not the first to stain the hands of Faust, but they were the last.
Even though Faust had not intended to murder the couple, he held
himself responsible, and this guilt eventually culminated in his
denial of care and his rejection of Mephistopheles. For this
disobedience, the “Powers That Reigned” blinded Faust; and thus Faust spoke:
“Deep night now seems to fall more deeply still. Yet inside me there shines a
brilliant light. What I have thought, I hasten to fulfill.” Faust could no longer see his kingdom, but his inner vision remained intact.
Faust, now at death’s door, accepted his fate. In anticipation of his
death, Mephistopheles waited with outstretched hands for the release
of his soul. The soul should have been on its way to Hell, or at least
so thought the devil. But, slipping through Mephistopheles
fingertips, Faust’s soul was lifted up to Heaven instead, and a dark
shadow fell over Goethe’s reputation.
[Faust’s salvation (Faust–Part Two) was posthumously published, and, as expected, it was greeted with animosity, but Goethe’s reputation recovered.]
In the end, the right use of power, the deed, and knowledge brought
Faust’s salvation and Goethe’s lifelong project to a close. Where love,
beauty and form meet, enlightenment cannot be far behind, but it might be a stretch to attribute enlightenment to Faust. I’ll have to give that a little more thought!
The day after I wrote the above exam, I experienced a beautiful sunrise which inspired the following poem:
A heavy frost,
crisp refreshing air,
the end of a night’s work.
glancing toward the sky,
Another sunrise indeed,
a crimson miracle,
uncovering sublime emotion.
What to do,
run, find yourself a high perch,
the top of Brooks Hall.
A timeless moment,
Watching the sky unfold,
transfixed in a living aura,
transposed into one sensation.
Life energy becomes fluid,
synonymous with beauty,
everything becomes beautiful.
Listless, yet attending,
attention turns inside out,
object and subject cease to be.