Sunday, December 18, 2011

Number Twenty

Leoparden brechen in den Tempel ein und saufen die Opferkrüge leer; das wiederholt sich immer wieder; schließlich kann man es vorausberechnen, und es wird ein Teil der Zeremonie.

Leopards break into the temple and drink to the dregs what is in the sacrificial pitchers; this is repeated over and over again; finally it can be calculated in advance, and it becomes a part of the ceremony. [Kaiser/Wilkins]

Leopards break into the temple and drink all the sacrificial vessels dry; it keeps happening; in the end, it can be calculated in advance and is incorporated into the ritual. [Hofmann]


The repetition of the depredations of the leopards happens presumably despite the efforts of the temple custodians. Kafka has a persistent interest in impersonal, spontaneous alteration over time, although here it doesn't seem to matter whether or not the inclusion of the leopards in the ritual happens as a consequence of a decree, a decision with a particular moment in time, or as a result of a habituation.

Calculation prevents loss. In fact, once they become part of the ritual, the appearance of the leopards is necessary, and the ritual is vindicated when they arrive.

The leopards are innocent, so how can this be defilement?

Religion is like the leopard; both eat the same goods, both act in the same way -- all effects. The doctrine that esteems peace and love as its highest values is used to justify violence and no one thinks twice about it. No one thinks once about it. Ritual only seems to be the most rigid mindset, when it's actually the most flexible.

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