Sunday, February 28, 2010

formspring.me: Names

So, why did you pick the name "Jack Faust"? What purpose does it serve? In your opinion, what are the do's and don't's of choosing an alias/magical name?

When I was 16 or 17, I was convinced to pick up a copy of Faust: Love of the Damned, a comic from the '80s. It was the first 'adult' oriented material I'd come across in a format like the comic book (which began a love-affair with other writers, like Alan Moore, in its own time). Anyway, I refused to stop bringing them to class and secretly reading them when I ought to have been learning my “Maths.” As a consequence of this, and the fact that were I discovered with such material I'd likely be expelled, my friends began calling me “Faust.” (I hope my little sister never reads this. Dear god. That's a valid worry these days. She's 18. And smart. I'm doomed!) One went so far as to try and convince me that I ought to change my last name to “Faust” or “Von Faustus.”

Now keep in mind that this was the year before I bought Liber Null and figured out how to meditate at last. So the best thing I had at hand was a copy of Crowley's Book Four. And by this I don't mean the entire corpus of volumes that compose Book 4. Oh, no. I mean Weiser's slim edition, which only includes some of Crowley's thoughts on the superman and the transcendental experience and the information that to achieve enlightened Magus-hood, one ought to spend eight ours a day in a position that is in no way comfortable. And yes, I did to try to do just that. I stopped sleeping regularly for nearly four-months while attempted to put myself in an asana and meditate my happy ass into Magus-hood. Ever since I've had this love-hate relationship with anything Crowley wrote. On the one hand, it's provided a good wealth of information to me that's been worthwhile. On the other hand, and I say that as the man that was once a 16-year old would-be Magus, Crowley is a complete asshole.

Anyway: Faust stuck. I rather liked him in both Goethe and Marlowe. I couldn't pronounce the word correctly, but I knew it was totally cool. In the way only a 16 year old can understand. I tagged a “St.” on it, eventually, to show my elite status and demonstrate the fact I could, in fact, use sigils. And then, coincidentally, I was made a Discordian Saint. Right after the Discordians demonstrated that I was a Saint by punching me in the shoulder, they immediately Sainted the tin can (of Pepsi) next to me. I was dubiously elated. I had clearly been chosen, I was told, to sin until death.

The 'Jack' part is more recent. I actually tried to get away from Faust after a while. I thought that maybe it was haunting me. I mean one day you wake up and realize: “My screen name is Saint Faust. I am a pretentious asshole. They're all right about me!”

So I did some silly ritual to 'pry' it off me like a mask and then stuck a mask in the closet and decided, “that was Faust.”

Except that wasn't Faust. And I'd actually chosen that pseudonym for a reason. The problem was that I wasn't seeing eye-to-eye with that reason.

Why Jack?

“This is the taper that lights the way; this is the cloak that covers the stone.
That sharpens the knife; that cuts the cord, that binds the staff.
That is owned by the Maid; that tends the fire, that boils the pot, that scalds the sword.
That fashions the bridge; that crosses the ditch, that compasses the hand, that knocks the door.
That fetches the watch; that releases the man, that turns the mill, that grinds the corn.
That makes the cake; that feeds the hound, that guards the gate.
That hides the maze, that is worth a light...
… And into the house that Jack built.
Roy Bowers (Robert Cochrane)

“Jack” is one of the more common names amongst the lower classes, and so it shows up in a variety of fairy-tales. Jack the Giant Killer. Jack and the Bean Stalk. How about that guy, the elemental manifestation of Pan? Isn't his name Jack? Yeah. Jack-in-the-Green. Or how about the little child's rhyme that explains most of Cochrane's views on witchcraft when analyzed? Jack seemed as apt a name as any. He's the hero, he's the villain, and he's also the rawest expression of boy-hood that exists insofar as my mind is concerned. When I was a child, it was Jack the Giant Killer that I wanted to be. The boy that steals the magic sword, and then upends tyrany. And who doesn't want to be that kid?

On the other hand, Faust is always old. And he's not always someone you can quite agree with. Crotchety old fuck sold his soul, didn't he? And when he finally gets love, Mephistopheles convinces him to bail on it and instead head off to a wild Sabbatic romp. Which, while fun, is never half as cool as sex. Faust is smart, but he isn't wise.

Come to think of it, neither is Jack. But I also expect that it explains a bit about me. If everything is about combinations of opposites, then Jack still counter-balances Faust well enough that I'm not worried about selling my soul. (As a matter of fact: most malevolent spirits do not want your soul. And if you offer it to them, at say, 19... they will laugh at you. And promptly leave. Because you're an idiot.)

What are the consequences of choosing a pseudonym? A few are pretty obvious. The first is that it may not convey a message which others agree with. For example: someone emailed me asking if I was still writing recently. When I looked at the emailer's name was “Kigger Niller.” Rearrange the first two letters and you will see what it means. I smiled faintly, highlighted it in my mailbox, and clicked delete. That is not someone I plan to have anything to do with. I am quite sure some people have seen “Jack Faust,” “Faust,” or “St. Faust” show up as an email header and clicked the delete key in the same way. Because Faust has sold his soul for the devil (note: according to most Christians, I have too. And in a sense they are quite correct). And people that sell their souls are not someone you might necessarily want emailing you. Which aids me in a few ways: first, if that sets them off then we probably won't get along. Second, it shows that they are at least capable of reading Wikipedia if they comment on it. Which is a plus.

There are more subtle ways, such as the fact that names mean things and we symbolically internalize them. Which is perhaps why it is a Boy-King gazing out from behind my eyes. A Little King of No-Thing, who owns the world but owns it not. Yes, I think the symbols we choose matter. I like to think that Faust found me in his own way. Even when I asked people to stop calling me it, they wouldn't stop anyway. So I stopped asking that, stuck a Jack in front of it, and contented myself.

If I'm to be a Faust, then it will at least be on my terms.

Ask me anything

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