Before the Law Before the Law stands a doorkeeper on guard. To this doorkeeper there comes a man from the country who begs for admittance to the Law. But the doorkeeper says that he cannot admit the man at the moment. The man, on reflection, asks if he will be allowed, then, to enter later. But note that I am powerful.
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All these parables really set out to say merely that the incomprehensible is incomprehensible, and we know that already. But the cares we have to struggle with every day: that is a different matter.
Concerning this a man once said: Why such reluctance? If you only followed the parables you yourselves would become parables and with that rid yourself of all your daily cares. Another said: I bet that is also a parable. The first said: You have won. The second said: But unfortunately only in parable. The first said: No, in reality: in parable you have lost. Available online. What is this exactly? Is there an intention to share without anything shared? Yet his parables are never exhausted by what is explainable; on the contrary, he took all conceivable precautions against the interpretation of his writings.
Given its background, the directive in which Kafka ordered the destruction of his literary remains is just as unfathomable, to be weighed just as carefully as the answers of the doorkeeper before the law. Perhaps Kafka, whose every day on earth brought him up against insoluble behavior problems and undecipherable communications, in death wished to give his contemporaries a taste of their own medicine. Can we claim perfect understanding through language of each others as well as of the world?
Along with Benjamin, many have challenged this very idea in the last two centuries from Nietzsche to Agamben, all the way through Peirce, Adorno, Horkheimer, Deleuze and others. The fact is that the development of modern forms of communication hampers the communicability of experience.
Most of us are aware, if vaguely, of this aporetical diagnostic. We can feel the ambiguous effects it has on our very co existence 2. Just like usefulness stems from non-existence in the Tao Te Ching 4 or like the way an obstacle can expose the path it is blocking in a new light, incommunicability may be just the occasion to think about something that remained unthought. Ever failed. No matter. Try again.
Fail again. Fail better. Although this form of resistance cannot be thought outside or without the dominant concept of communication, it remains irreducible to radio broadcasts, television programs or social media which is not to say they have nothing to do with it. However, this potential function is highly risky both for those who engage with it and those who are exposed to it. It certainly cannot be apprehended as a simple and easy solution to the problem of our political coexistence.
It requires individuals whose separate existence in themselves is risked, placed at the limit of death and nothingness; the moral summit is the moment of risk taking, it is a being suspended in the beyond of oneself, at the limit of nothingness.
Bruce Boon, London: Continuum, p. At the very end of his commemorative text on Kafka, Walter Benjamin remarks: To do justice to the figure of Kafka in its purity and its peculiar beauty one must never lose sight of one thing: it is the purity and beauty of a failure.
The circumstances of this failure are manifold. One is tempted to say: once he was certain of eventual failure, everything worked out for him en route as in a dream. There is nothing more memorable than the fervor with which Kafka emphasized his failure. Illuminations, pp.
Norton: New York, I would suggest similarly that most communication theories attempt to overcome separation and, in doing so, are deeply rooted in a humanistic ideology. It is epitomized in the following and famous quote: Captain : You gonna get use to wearing them chains after a while Luke. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it… well, he gets it.
Before the Law
Parables and Paradoxes