Thursday, February 5, 2015

Before the Law

“there is nothing bad to fear; once you have crossed that threshold, all is well. Another world, and you do not have to speak”
― Franz Kafka, "Letter to His Father" (details)
But your whole method of upbringing was like that. You have, I think, a gift for bringing up children; you could, I am sure, have been of help to a human being of your own kind with your methods; such a person would have seen the reasonableness of what you told him, would not have troubled about anything else, and would quietly have done things the way he was told. But for me as a child everything you called out to me was positively a heavenly commandment, I never forgot it, it remained for me the most important means of forming a judgment of the world, above all of forming a judgment of you yourself, and there you failed entirely. Since as a child I was with you chiefly during meals, your teaching was to a large extent the teaching of proper behavior at table. What was brought to the table had to be eaten, the quality of the food was not to be discussed—but you yourself often found the food inedible, called it "this swill," said "that cow" (the cook) had ruined it. Because in accordance with your strong appetite and your particular predilection you ate everything fast, hot, and in big mouthfuls, the child had to hurry; there was a somber silence at table, interrupted by admonitions: "Eat first, talk afterward," or "faster, faster, faster," or "There you are, you see, I finished ages ago." Bones mustn't be cracked with the teeth, but you could. Vinegar must not be sipped noisily, but you could. The main thing was that the bread should be cut straight. But it didn't matter that you did it with a knife dripping with gravy. Care had to be taken that no scraps fell on the floor. In the end it was under your chair that there were the most scraps. At table one wasn't allowed to do anything but eat, but you cleaned and cut your fingernails, sharpened pencils, cleaned your ears with a toothpick. Please, Father, understand me correctly: in themselves these would have been utterly insignificant details, they only became depressing for me because you, so tremendously the authoritative man, did not keep the commandments you imposed on me. Hence the world was for me divided into three parts: one in which I, the slave, lived under laws that had been invented only for me and which I could, I did not know why, never completely comply with; then a second world, which was infinitely remote from mine, in which you lived, concerned with government, with the issuing of orders and with the annoyance about their not being obeyed; and finally a third world where everybody else lived happily and free from orders and from having to obey. I was continually in disgrace; either I obeyed your orders, and that was a disgrace, for they applied, after all, only to me; or I was defiant, and that was a disgrace too, for how could I presume to defy you; or I could not obey because I did not, for instance, have your strength, your appetite, your skill, although you expected it of me as a matter of course; this was the greatest disgrace of all. This was not the course of the child's reflections, but of his feelings.
-Excerpt

10 comments:

Z said...

Oh, gad....I'm watching THE TRIAL in about 30 minutes...what a coincidence!?

FreeThinke said...

By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.

~ Franz Kafka

FreeThinke said...

A first sign of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die.

~ Franz Kafka

-FJ said...

Z - At this rate, you'll have seen 3/4 of the movie already! ;)

A pretty morose outlook, at least the 2nd quote!

FreeThinke said...

Kafka was a study in violent contrasts. A bitter cynic and misanthropist who, apparently, would like to have been able to be a man of faith.

Much of what he said is inscrutable. I doubt if even he, himself, knew what he meant in many instances.

FreeThinke said...

It is often safer to be in chains than to be free.

~Franz Kafka

That, apparently, is what Democrats (Marxian-Fabian Socialists) fervently wish to fashion into a creed, then forge into dogma.

FreeThinke said...

So Kafka regarded - and resented -- his father as a boorish, slovenly, hypocritical, arbitrary, authoritarian presence in his poor little life.

What a whiny, utterly self-centered, ungrateful, ungracious overly-demanding way of looking at his situation!

Sounds like the approach of a typical spoiled brat to me!

No wonder Kafka has always come across as supremely unlikeable!

Thersites said...

...and yet by doing so, he captured the essence of the "SuperEgo" that is not captured in most people's conception of the "Law".

We desire to be a nation of "laws" so as to escape from this arbitrary "hidden" entity... for it free's us to pursue our own "ends". But it is always there... behind the scenes... writing "Executive Orders" and "Signing Statement's" and "Excluding itself" from coverage by the "law".

FreeThinke said...

Oh, I understand THAT very well, Thersites, but if we've received a firm, good-humored grounding in how to build a constructive, encouraging, nourishing INNER life, we can carry on pretty much as we choose in spite of the tyrannies inevitably visited on us by Fathers, Mothers, Shrewish old Aunts, Governesses, Teachers, Bosses and Big Brother.

THAT ability is what the much-abused term "Christian Faith" has meant to me.

FreeThinke said...

Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.

~ Franz Kafka