Care (Goethe and Heidegger)

In the fifth act of Faust part 2 , four grey ladies visit Faust. They are Guilt, Necessity, Want and Care (Sorge). Only Care can gain admittance, and in this alchemical drama, not for the first time, much significance is implied by the one plus three. There is a suggestion that Faust’s mortality depends on his inability to shed care, and I suspect that Heidegger is remembering this when he makes care the defining characteristic of Dasein (literally being-there) in Being and Time. Dasein is Heidegger’s word for human beings emphasising their implication in the world. As I look back in my life, it does indeed seem that care was there from the beginning. Here is a short prose piece which is a memory from my childhood at about the age of ten.

The boy with torn clothes who is walking in front of me , veers off to the right and climbs over the railings. An underground train, now overground, rattles past him at speed. He is a little older than I am, enough to deter me from attracting his attention. But he worries me and I watch him closely. He kicks his way through the long grass by the railway, while I continue walking some yards back on the pavement. He turns, sees me and comes up to the railings. ” ‘Ere mate giv’us a tanner”. I am a few minutes from home and offer him everything I have, which is not more than a couple of shillings. He takes the money and says nothing. Clutching the coins in his fist, he climbs back over the railings, hitches up his trousers, and with a whoop, takes off past me in the direction we’ve just come from. ( Note – tanner is slang for the predecimal coin, sixpence. The train was the District Line train running from Kew Gardens to Richmond).

And here follows a short poem ‘Note to myself.’

Don't be intimidated, 
even after Shakespeare 
there is still so much to be said.

At the same time be thoughtful,
shoulder the burden of silence,
carry it further each day.

Published by davidcookpoet

I am a husband, father and grandfather. I retired from a busy working life as an adult psychiatrist in 2014. My interests are in literature, philosophy, modern jazz and horse racing. I might represent those four fields by Shakespeare, Kant, Charlie Parker and Lester Piggott. Like nearly all of us, I can identify a number of formative experiences, one of which was a psychotic episode in my first year as a psychiatrist. This reinforced an already established interest in mystical experience, and a sense of how little human beings know. My intellectual bugbear is reductive materialism, and I am surprised at the lack of moral imagination of those who promulgate such views. It seems to me they need to consider ,perhaps by exposure, just why totalitarianism is so horrific.

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