Saturday, July 11, 2009

Readings: Don't Look Back

X
Franz Kafka’s Zürau Aphorisms differ from most of his other writings in several ways. Two important deviations from Kafka’s normal practice found in these aphorisms are that: 1) the aphorisms deal directly with matters of the spirit; and 2) while Kafka normally wrote in notebooks, in great run-on bursts of prose, the aphorisms were discovered to have been neatly inscribed, one to a page, on separate, loose sheets of paper, and consecutively numbered.

This morning I encountered the aphorism numbered 106. It is more wordy than most of the others. Also, unlike the majority of the others, it is divided into two sections.

In contemplating the meaning of aphorism number 106, I have found it instructive to go back and to consider the first section in light of the second, reversing their order. The second section is:

Can you know anything that is not deception? Once deception was destroyed, you wouldn’t be able to look, at the risk of turning into a pillar of salt.

Tough stuff. So, keeping that under your tongue, consider the longer first section:

Humility gives everyone, even the lonely and the desperate, his strongest tie to his fellow men. Immediately and spontaneously, too, albeit only if the humility is complete and lasting. It does so because it is the language of prayer and is both worship and tie. The relationship to one’s fellow man is the relationship of prayer; the relationship to oneself is the relationship of striving; out of prayer is drawn the strength with which to strive.
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Can you know anything that is not deception? Once deception was destroyed, you wouldn’t be able to look, at the risk of turning into a pillar of salt.

Well, can you, huh?

No, I didn’t think so. Neither you, nor I.
X

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

So you're not looking?

Rodak said...

The trick is to discern the distinction between "looking" on the one hand and "striving" on the other.
If I could acquire that knack, I'd be content.