Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Number Three

Es gibt zwei menschliche Hauptsünden, aus welchen sich alle andern ableiten: Ungeduld und Lässigkeit. Wegen der Ungeduld sind sie aus dem Paradiese vertrieben worden, wegen der Lässigkeit kehren sie nicht zurück. Vielleicht aber gibt es nur eine Hauptsünde: die Ungeduld. Wegen der Ungeduld sind sie vertrieben worden, wegen der Ungeduld kehren sie nicht zurück.

There are two main human sins, from which all the others derive: impatience and indolence. It was because of impatience that they were expelled from paradise; it is because of indolence that they do not return. Yet perhaps there is only one major sin: impatience. Because of impatience they were expelled, because of impatience they do not return. [Kaiser/Wilkins]

There are two cardinal human vices, from which all the others derive their being: impatience and carelessness. Impatience got people evicted from Paradise; carelessness kept them from making their way back there. Or perhaps there is only one cardinal vice: impatience. Impatience got people evicted, and impatience kept them from making their way back. [Hofmann]


Kafka cancelled this aphorism, perhaps in favor of Number Two, which seems to be an extension of the line of reasoning evident here.

Impatience means being unwilling to wait, but the fruit of the tree of knowledge wasn't prohibited for a limited time only; it was forbidden forever and altogether, so how is the Fall a crime of impatience? If we assume the Fall was a crime of impatience, wouldn't we also have to assume that Adam and Eve mistook God's permanent ban for a temporary delay? If so, then that mistake sets up the impatience which leads to the transgression, making that confusion, rather than the act of disobedience, the origin of sin. However, it is for the disobedience they were punished, unless we assume that the confusion is included somehow in the punishment as well, even if it isn't mentioned. This doesn't seem to be Kafka's point, so perhaps he cancelled this aphorism not only because of the superfluity of indolence to his idea, but also because the Fall is out of place in it as well.

Perhaps, by impatience, Kafka means taking the rules too lightly. Adam and Eve had only one rule. You would think they could have remembered it. But, if you have to live with many rules, while you may not remember them all in particular, you are constantly aware of the existence of rules, and so you might develop a reflex causing you to check for a rule before undertaking certain kinds of actions. Someone with only one rule to follow doesn't really live according to rule in the usual sense, and might well be more likely to forget it than someone bound by many rules.

In the second aphorism, impatience is failure to follow method. Methods are caught in a double bind; on the one hand, they have to take all relevant possibilities into account, while, on the other hand, in order to function, they have to reach a conclusion that isn't arbitrary. Where the possibilities are very numerous, it becomes more and more difficult not to set an arbitrary end to methodical operations.

Then -- going back. This means that the expulsion from paradise is not permanent. But, from identifying impatience as the main, the only, human sin, it doesn't follow necessarily that patience will restore paradise. In this aphorism, Kafka only says that impatience and paradise are mutually exclusive. The first aphorism speaks of a "true way;" if that isn't also the "way back," I don't see what else it could be. Perhaps the first aphorism explains that patience is the true way, the true way back; this would make going back the non-arbitrary result of the method, unless patience itself is paradise.

Paradise is not endless procedure, unless paradise is the trial. Is Bloch patient? Or is he no longer waiting for anything? Is faith just waiting? Is patience possible where there is no anticipation of a result? Or perhaps patience is only the refusal to act, despite a strong impatience.

1 comment:

Victor said...

The second we will learn patience, we will realize that we are still in "Paradise". Being impatient is what obstructs us from the truth that we were never evicted. The reason for not returning is the same as the reason for our apparent eviction: impatience within existence.