As many of you already know, I am a ginormous fan of the Faust story. For those of you who haven't heard all this before, it's sort of a big deal, in my personal universe. Faust is basically, for me, the mythic underpinning that explains pretty much everything we need to know about living in the modern world. In a major cultural-studies, lit-loser, nerdotron way, I am to Faust in all its incarnations as a minivan full of screaming tween girls are to... uh, I guess that Gerard guy from My Chemical Romance. I hear he's dreamy and broody an' whatnot. The only full-length play I've written, so far, is a Faust play. I even like the Brendan Fraser/ Liz Hurley version of Bedazzled.
In the Goethe version of Faust, the one that defines Romance with a capital R in the Western world, there's this part about the terms of the deal; Mephistopholes agrees to keep supplying Faust with all-you-can-eat worldly awesomeness. The only catch is, if ever there should be a moment that's so perfect, so delicious, so satisfying that Faust wants it to last forever, then boom. Time's up. We're all done dancing.
And what's sweet about it is, that moment doesn't come when they're messing with the spacetime continuum so Faust can bang Helen of Troy; it doesn't come with the sense of accomplishment and pride Faust tends to get when he uses medicine to stop a plague, or when he uses engineering to save a city from being subsumed by the ocean. It happens, finally, when he sees an old couple who have been together forever, working on their cruddy little farm, and being happy together. And Goethe is even nice enough to let Faust off the hook, based on, I guess, having his heart in the right place most of the time. Eventually, in other words, Faust in a sense sort of gets it. You don't need some devil making crap happen for you; you need to be present in the moment. And all the glittery crap the world has to offer you won't make you happy. Can't, in fact.
Pretty radical stuff, in some ways, for the 1800s. And with only minor tweaks, it works very nicely with Buddhism or Existentialism. In a nutshell, you start me talking about Faust, it will be difficult to shut me up.
Goethe was maybe not entirely right about certain things. I think it's great to fall in love with the world, from time to time. Carpe yourself some diem. We shouldn't have to think of that as dangerous. Contentment does not have to mean complacency. And when it comes to my own life, I want the world and me to be more than friends, if you follow.
I only bring this up because this afternoon I was walking downtown, in search of a late lunch. I found the burrito place was closed Sundays (which still strikes me as mildly funny in a way I can't quite put my finger on), and so walked a bit up Nicollet Mall. I had a brief conversation with a woman representing the Scientology center there (she: "Let me ask you, do you have any problems?" me: "After Tom Cruise, you guys have more problems than I have...") and then decided to pop in to the Local for a pint and a plate.
I'm not saying the Waldorf Salad with grilled steak is so good you'd sell your soul. But it's close. Especially with a Finnegan's, with the Vikings just winning a game, and with a cool book about Rosalind Franklin to occupy a dude.
The laugh-out-loud awesomeness of the moment would be a little later, as I headed out. I was just in time for the first-annual Minneapolis version of the Running of the Santas. 'Twas a sight to behold, it really was. It's pretty much impossible to be weighed down by the cares of the day or the gremlins of the soul, when a couple hundred Santas are jogging past.
I am seriously going to miss Minneapolis, next year. Then again, I have a feeling stuff like this is going to continue to happen to me...