Recently, I’ve been thinking about what I have in common with Faust. No, I am not a distinguished doctor of learning, nor do I come from a family where the emphasis is on scholarship, but I have sought answers to the puzzling questions of the universe and my own existence. The result was I found myself scratching my head in utter dismay. During the 1980’s, I read book after book in an attempt to discover what my purpose was in the scheme of things. I never realized back then that I would end up in a university studying philosophy. Of course, I came to academia to discover what I had not found in the books I read. Well, I found that I was no closer to solving the mysteries of our world than I was back then. But this, of course, is how it is meant to be. Wrestling with ignorance and calamity is actually helpful to someone who is interested in self-realization..
I have gained self-knowledge, as Faust does in the story. He becomes disgusted with learning. He begins to evolve as a human being through experiences, provided to him by Mephisto. In my own case, I suppose I led a somewhat cloistered life, apart from going to work. At one point in my life in the 80’s, I would come home every night and read. I read all sorts of books. Eventually, I began to read Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky and found companions. They showed me how crucial introspection is to a human being. Prior to that, I was looking outside myself for answers. Primarily, I was looking to Christianity, which my mother taught me to believe in at a young age. It didn’t happen overnight, but during my second year at the university, I realized that the Church could not answer the questions I was posing.
When I read Nietzsche in college I came to see how important it is to create and mold one’s own life. That is what Faust chose to do when he made the pact with Mephisto. No, I have not cut a deal with the Devil; I have done something better–I have dealt with myself. Mephisto is a symbol for all that Faust considered dark within himself. I faced my own dark side when I broke away from the religion of my parents. I decided that how I lived my life was up to me; no one else could walk in my shoes, so why should I allow anyone else to choose my thoughts and beliefs for me? In this way, I felt reborn.
I think Faust also experiences a similar feeling of renewal when he begins to experience a world which he has never known before. All his life, he has been the lonely scholar, shut up in his study, poring over the tomes. In fact, thirty years are removed from his life after the pact with Mephisto through the witch’s potion. He becomes a young, vibrant man again. Even though he must experience both sorrow and happiness, through this process he is growing, he is becoming a self-realized man.
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