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FAUST

    Once Faust sought to renegotiate the fine print.
    The time limit of twenty-four years didn’t concern him particularly. It seemed long enough to explore everything worth exploring that life had to offer and short enough to spare him the discontent of repeating a single hour’s discoveries. 
    Nor did he wish to be excused from the forfeit of his soul in exchange for the chance of gaining the whole world. What else could possibly match the scope of his quest? All the bliss and all the woe of life, wasn’t that what he’d bargained for? Full knowledge, full passion, full entry into the mysteries of life, hadn’t that been worth signing for in blood?
    “So what’s the problem?” asked Mephistopheles with a yawn.
    “I want to add another clause to our contract,” Faust began, “one that restrains playwrights and poets from reducing my story to moralizing flimflam after I’m no longer around to defend my good name.”
    “Oh, you’ll be around, don’t worry. Nobody’s going to forget you.”
    “That’s precisely what I mean. I’ll be at the mercy of any scribbler who claims to find in me the curse of a mind and spirit overreaching themselves.”
    “Fame’s fame these days, however you come by it. You’ll be in a league by yourself when it comes to name recognition, I’d wager.”
    “But for what?”
    “Your ‘just deserts,’ I believe it’s called.”
    “Just deserts? Being carried off by clownish demons or plucked up for redemption by yodeling angels at the last second?”
    “That’s about the shape of it.”
    “What a failure of imagination! Why shouldn’t striving for the highest truths be worthy of something more than the same old ragbag of moral platitudes?”
    “I’m all ears.”
    “Hell or heaven, that’s it? That’s all there is when it comes to having an entire lifetime judged?”
    “So it would seem.”
    “Why? Is the sum of human possibility nothing more than a small box with a pinhole at each end, heaven at one and hell at the other? What can you understand of life by squinting at it through either one?”
    “Depends on what you want to see, doesn’t it? Anything inside that box, remember, you humans put there.”
    “What’s the use of having a mind at all if it doesn’t rival the night sky in wonders?”
    “Box or no box, star-deep night or no night, the secrets of the cosmos don’t come without a price.”
    “Exactly. And they ought to be worth the price paid. Not this rounding up or rounding down to a clichéd ‘salvation’ or ‘damnation’.”
    “You ask too much. Who can blame people for taking one look at the toll wrung from those who strive for all that mind or spirit or senses can attain and then deciding to settle instead for conventional rewards and punishments? Who wouldn’t choose the reassurance of a stock ending in that case?”
    “Which is why I want the contract to have a restraining clause on playwrights and poets and other literary types. At least until their imaginations no longer fall short of mine.”
    “Sorry, old boy. That’s out of my hands.”