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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Meaning of Life is to Strive for Something

Die Bedeutung des Lebens ist nach etwas zu streben.

That little rhyming German sentence, which I just came up with myself, thank you very much, means: "To strive for something is the meaning of life." The idea is not mine (and really who has an original idea anymore anyway?), but it was taught to me by Professor von Schmidt, head of the German department at the University of Utah, during a class on Faust. For some reason, the idea of striving sticks out in my mind over many other things that I learned in college.

For anyone not familiar with the story of Faust (and I do recommend that you become familiar with it), it's about a man who has mastered his knowledge of medicine, law, and theology, but is unsatisfied and craves further knowledge. So he sells his soul to the devil so that he can gain full knowledge of the universe through magic.

Interpretations regarding the morality or immorality of Faust's deeds depend upon whom you ask. Christopher Marlowe told the traditional version of the myth in Doctor Faustus, which ends with Faust pleading for the salvation of his soul. But Goethe's Faust, on the other hand, ends with the redemption of Faust's soul. The telling of Goethe's version is similar in many respects to the Book of Job. In both stories, God and the Devil make a bet about the protagonist. The Devil bets on the one hand that Job will curse God, and on the other that Faust will go astray from God. In both stories, our heroes do just that, but are saved nonetheless.

Why are they saved? That's something that I don't really understand in either case. The bets appear to be lost, and yet God wins anyway. There is probably a good explanation, but I haven't been able to reach it yet. That leaves me some understanding yet to strive for as far as the story is concerned.

And that is the point of this blog: it dawned on me today how important it is to strive for something; to be challenged by something; to always keep the carrot dangling in front of your face. (That is, of course, if you're a rabbit. The point is to find your impetus and follow it.)

The meaning of life is to have a reason to keep on living. Once there is nothing left to push for, then we might as well just give up the ghost.

How this applies to me: I will not settle into a routine that fails to keep on challenging me. I can master my 9 to 5 job, and then I must move on. I must always work to improve myself. Sustaining life is a purpose of jobs, yes. We need the money to live, and the health insurance to ensure that living. But that is not all that life has to offer. We can't just get up, go to work, come home, eat, sleep, repeat. That is a cycle that goes nowhere. There must be something else to keep us going.

It could be our careers, if they're headed somewhere. It could our hobbies. It could be our families and friends. There just has to be motivation to keep on moving and improving.

You see, I finally feel happy and optimistic about the future because I have recently decided to pursue law school. Preparing for the LSAT is causing me to oil the gears of my mind and get them moving after the 2-year mental dormancy my post-graduation life has been. I am excited to prepare for and hopefully excel at this task ahead of me. At last, I feel like I have a direction, and it's a relief to have somewhere to go.

Immer wieder mit dem Streben.

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