Sophie sat looking up at Alberto. She was thinking how odd it was that she should be alive now, and that she only lived this one time and would never again return to life. Suddenly she exclaimed:
What matters our creative endless toil, When, at a snatch, oblivion ends the coil?
Alberto frowned at her.
"You must not talk like that, child. Those are the words of the Devil."
"Or Mephistopheles--in Goethe's Faust 'Was soil uns denn das ew'ge Schaffen! Geschaffenes zu nichts hinweg-zuraffenV "
"But what do those words mean exactly?" "As Faust dies and looks back on his life's work, he says in triumph:
Then to the moment could I say:
Linger you now, you are so fair!
Now records of my earthly dayNo flights of aeons can impair--Foreknowledge comes, and fills me with such bliss,I take my joy, my highest moment this."
"That was very poetic."
"But then it's the Devil's turn. As soon as Faust dies, he exclaims:
A foolish word, bygone.
How so then, gone?
Gone, to sheer Nothing, past with null made one!
What matters creative endless toil,When, at a snatch, oblivion ends the coil?
'It is bygone'--How shall this riddle run?
As good as if things never had begun,Yet circle back, existence to possess:
I'd rather have Eternal Emptiness."
"That's pessimistic. I liked the first passage best. Even though his life was over, Faust saw some meaning in the traces he would leave behind him."
"And is it not also a consequence of Darwin's theory that we are part of something all-encompassing, in which every tiny life form has its significance in the big picture? We are the living planet, Sophie! We are the great vessel sailing around a burning sun in the universe. But each and every one of us is also a ship sailing through life with a cargo of genes. When we have carried this cargo safely to the next harbor--we have not lived in vain. Thomas Hardy expresses the same thought in his poem Transformations':
Portion of this yew
Is a man my grandsire knew,
Bosomed here at its foot:
This branch may be his wife,
A ruddy human life
Now turned to a green shoot.
These grasses must be made
Of her who often prayed,
Last century, for repose;
And the fair girl long ago
Whom I often tried to know
May be entering this rose.
So, they are not underground,
But as nerves and veins abound
In the growths of upper air,
And they feel the sun and rain,
And the energy again
That made them what they were!"
"That's very pretty."
"But we will talk no more. I simply say next chapter!'
"Oh, stop all that irony!"
"New chapter, I said! I shall be obeyed!"
The German poet Goethe once said that "he who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth." I don't want you to end up in such a sad st...
The German poet Goethe once said that "he who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth." I don't want you to end up in such a sad state. I will do what I can to acquaint you with your historical roots. It is the only way to become a human being. It is the only way to become more than a naked ape. It is the only way to avoid floating in a vacuum.