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My Thoughts on Kafka

November 14, 2009 Leave a comment

“Franz Kafka’s fiction makes no sense,” the introduction declared.

At first, this statement seemed to me to be a statement of fact. And, in a certain sense, it still is. But I think that, in being twisted, indecipherable, an seemingly meaningless, Kafka’s writings capture something that few other literary works have been able to touch on, a truth so mundane that it is at the same time profound: the reality of living. Through his works, which strike me as reminiscent of my own strange dreams and nightmares, he explores the tedium of everyday life, the daily routines that set a steady rhythm for our lives, leading us nowhere but toward our inevitable deaths. In having no apparent meaning, his prose paints a portrait of our own apparently meaningless lives, and the random, confusing, often unfortunate happenings that define them. In defying explanation, Kafka makes more sense than any other writer whose works I have encountered. It is for certain a paradox, but isn’t it also true that many things in our lives–and in our twisted, nonsensical dreams–contradict themselves?

Nothing has to have meaning; there is no law, no higher law or one made by man, that says there must be purpose behind all that which we see. Try as we might, we cannot inject meaning into our brief existence. Try as they might, those who have studied Kafka’s lierature cannot hope to glean reason from his words. 

And that is precisely the reason why I have grown to love Kafka. He has broken the mold, and leapt beyond the boundaries that so many writers, and so many other people, for that matter, have set up to confine themselves. As a writer myself, I can only hope to do the same.

But this is just the humble opinion of a young and relatively unknowledgeable mind. Feel free to contradict me if you will.

Categories: Literary Analysis Tags: ,

Unintended Cliffhanger

November 14, 2009 Leave a comment

Yeah, so my column in the newspaper got cut off at the end. It’s most likely my fault, since page 5 was mine to design. But anyway, here’s the story in full (excuse typos…I can’t type to save my life, and my caps lock key is in a weird place):

Living in the present leads down the path to fulfillment

Expectation is humanity’s greatest affliction. We, as humans, read so much into things. We want to think that there’s meaning behind the mundane phenomena of everyday life, that those small actions we perform are working towards some greater good, or some final actualization of our being. We want to think that we have purpose in this life, and that the rewards we will reap from the fulfillment of our destinies are worth every trial and hardship we must endure, every burden we must bear, in order to reach that final peace. 

We push ourselves, push ourselves to succeed, to get ahead, to make our voices heard, to achieve that purpose we so long for. But for what end? At some point we realize–perhaps too late–that, in pushing ourselves into overdrive, we have not, even for a moment, actually lived. We have spent all our time scratching and clawing our way up the ladder, only to find nothing but a patch of empty air at the top. 

Why is satisfaction so elusive?

In striving to be the best, we have brought such great disappointment upon ourselves.

Sadly, the true nature of the issue goes unrecognized. Irrationally, we take the burden of our discontent and rest it on the shoulders of the next generation. Our flawed rationale tells us that, by encouraging our sons and daughters to be the best, to wipe out the competition and reach the top of that ladder, we can compensate for our shortcomings. In doing so, however, we have only doomed them to the same fate we ourselves have suffered: a life tainted by bitter disappointment.

And so our lives, the most precious gifts we will ever receive, are wasted. The years take away from us more than we have gained by living them, a sad truth revealed by the lines on our foreheads, the shadows under our eyes, the heaviness on our hearts, and the undefinable emptiness within.

The weight of this truth is undoubtedly heavy. But how it affects our lives will be determined by how we choose to shoulder it. The reality is that we don’t have time to wallow in defeatism and self-pity; we have to accept our brief existence for what it is, and carry on. Life, though it may not necessarily have any meaning beyond that which we as humans give it, is not something to be thrown away or lived in misery. Now and the future–they’re all we have.

The future, then, should be considered something to look forward to, not a preoccupation. Living in the future brings no satisfaction; living in a dream of grand things to come will only serve to detract from the richness of being.

But living in the present–ah, that is a thing most beautiful!

We must savor these moments as they pass through us, enjoy them before they slip into the past. Then as we lay dying, we can look back upon those moments as ones lived to the fullest, instead of dwelling on the unfulfilled dreams of the futures we never lived. Living in the moment is the one path to true inner peace. That is how life, that priceless gift of existence, made all the more precious by its brevity, should be enjoyed. Don’t fret that you may end up only as a number in a census report, rather than a footnote in a history book. Instead, spend the time that is given to you discovering the true joy of breathing in the fresh, crisp air of a cool winter morning…

The comforting sound of a train weaving its way through the twilight to some faraway destination…

The play of light on the waves in a pool, and your reflection in the glassy surface as you look up from the bottom…

The feel of coins slipping through your fingers like so many glistening fish scales…

The cool touch of rain as it traces silvery webs across your face…

The glow of a tree in autumn, set afire by hundreds of golden, dying leaves…

The musty smell of an old, yellowed book, and the crisp, inky smell of its newer counterpart…

The gentle throbbing ache that creeps into your muscles as you tackle a hill on your bike, the small bit of pain that reminds you that you are indeed alive.

Categories: Ideas and Opinions

Something Like That

November 5, 2009 Leave a comment

I saw them on the subway the other day. Your battered green suitcase with the tear in the right corner. Your woven purse, faded because it had seen so many sunny days. And your scarf too. It was red, as I recall, with orange trim and a little stain (coffee perhaps, or maybe blood) in the shape of a bear (that’s what I thought, at least). Your boots, I suppose, had grown lonely at home in your closet, so they tagged along as well. They’d not been worn since high school, junior year I think, when they trekked through the woods to my house. Ah, your necklace. That was there too, in the woods that day, and on the subway. I thought you’d lost it. Maybe my memory’s not as reliable as it once was. I saw your ripped jeans (no story behind those, because you bought them like that), paired with your favorite black t-shirt. The one you wore four weeks ago when we last talked. The one I cried on ten years ago when we found out about Chris (life wasn’t quite the same without his smile, was it?).

Sadly, though, I didn’t see you there. I had something to tell you (I’m not sure whether you’ll be happy about it or not), but I suppose it can wait a little longer. You’ll be glad to know, I think, that there was another girl there keeping them company (she looked a little like you, actually), and I think they’ll be well taken care of till you come back.

Categories: Short Stories

The Mirror

November 5, 2009 Leave a comment

Dying is not at all like falling asleep; the point of transition is so much more defined, discernible. It’s as if your spirit were balanced on a fulcrum, and one slight shift to the side  slowly  lowers you into death. But then it is also like a mirror. Stand in your bathroom now, and look into your own eyes, and let your hands meet against the glass. If your life were slipping away, you would feel yourself fall into the mirror, into your body on the other side. There would be a brief pain, or something akin to pain, when you passed through the glass, as if you were a tooth loosened and removed from a child’s mouth. But you will have not been removed from yourself. You will have divided, as the cells of your body did and will continue to do for a time after your heart has hushed its beating. And when you looked back upon your living self, and placed your fingertips against the glass, you would feel both hands, see through both pairs of eyes, in the same instant. You would be two, and both of you would be one.

But it is also not like that at all.

It is like being stretched, expanded, pulled in a thousand directions, and  at once being compressed by a weight unlike any you have ever felt.

It is like falling upward through the coldest, blackest night, and then being burned by a sea of stars.

It is like being completely empty, and also completely full.

It is like crying on a cold, hard floor.

It is like loneliness. 

It is like fire.

And then it is like nothing. 

You are like nothing.

You are nothing.

You were the sparks of electricity in your brain, an eternity ago.

In this infinite moment, you are, you were, you will be, nothing.

But if I am nothing, how can I be wri–

Categories: Short Stories

Invisible

November 2, 2009 Leave a comment

If I were to paint the soles of my shoes, and you were to become a bird and fly above me, what picture would the footsteps of my life paint for you? Would they form a word? And if they did, what would that word be? Love. Joy. Loss. Confusion. Why? Help. Or maybe numbers. All the telephone numbers I called, all the addresses I visited, all the numbers in my calculator, then also the number of tears I cried, and the number of laughs I laughed, the number of times I swung my club and missed the ball, the number of breaths, the number of heartbeats, and so on until all my life was tallied up and quantified. 

Or maybe there’d be no pattern at all. 

And what about when the paint was gone?

I’d just fade away, I guess. Or become invisible.