Franz Kafka

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

"Unlike our Ancestors," a Reflection upon Our Times

Original poster for Charlie Chaplin's 1936 film Modern Times


O man, take heed!
What does the deep midnight declare?
"I was asleep—
From a deep dream I woke and swear:—
The world is deep,
Deeper than day had been aware.
Deep is its woe—
Joy—deeper yet than agony:
Woe implores: Go!
But all joy wants eternity—
Wants deep, wants deep eternity."


 Friedrich Nietzsche,  from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra"


     Unlike our ancestors, who worshiped stone idols, or spirited Gods, today, we worship machines, or ideas. Such new deities are no longer made to our likeness, nor are we made to theirs. Yet - no different than in the past - they still descend from our very own breed: a specie of relentless faith and blind stubbornness.

    Since they do not resemble us, they have no heart, they lack a soul. They are a variegated Pantheon: fiber steel fire-birds, with sharp bellies; artificial asteroids in continuous rotation, scanning us from the sidereal spaces; hideous explosive devices, annihilating us, in spite of our bunkers of reinforced concrete; colossal dams, obstructing the riverbeds and the eternal tides of the sea; inexhaustible  power plants with their perennial whirling of atoms; or microscopic instruments of torture of the DNA double helix.

    Unlike our fore-fathers, we no longer ask our new Gods any thing: not salvation, nor truth; not redemption, nor eternal life; not protection, nor mercy; not abundant crops upon the fertile land, nor plenty of venison in the forests, nor mighty fish catch in stormy seas.  Today, we simply beseech to be left alone, be allowed to enjoy the infinitesimal particle of existence: to-day, the tombstone that reels on the verge of the abyss, the bridge that connects nothingness to nothingness.  Oblivious of where they took us away from, and unaware of where they may ultimately lead us, we simply offer our Gods worthless sacrifices of sward and mauve-colored blood.

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