Thursday, January 12, 2012

Becoming Franz Kafka

The other day I realized that I was becoming a bit like Franz Kafka. I know that sounds disturbing. Franz Kafka, after all, wrote The Metamorphosis, a story about a human being turning into a bug. Gregor Samsa wakes up one day to find that he has changed into a giant insect. He can's observe the change directly, but notices that things around him look differently. The change is readily evident to Gregor's sister and to his parents and their reaction to him is how he realizes that the change has happened. Eventually, Gregor accepts that his family would be better off without him and so he starvesw himself to death. That is a bit of literary realism, Kafka would do the same while in a ssanitorium suffering from tuberculosis.

I don't think that there is any danger of that happening in my case, but I do realize that I am becoming different in a way that I didn't anticipate. My change is the subtle one that takes place with the accompanying passage of time. The hair becomes a little thinner, the stomach paunchier, skin paler, teeth longer, eyes weaker. This change is evident every time that I look in the mirror, but it is also evident in the way others look at me.

We type cast people by the way they look. The young are foolish and immature. The old foolish and irrelevant. And somewhere in between extremely young and extremely old, the change begins.

You will realize that the metamorphosis has begun when others start calling you "sir" or "madam", when they hold the door open for you, step back and let you enter first, or, at the grocery store, offer to carry a single bag of groceries out to your car. Then there is the "senior discount" on coffee at McDonalds or tickets at the theater. My local university has a program that seniors can take classes for free. Now that's great, but you have to wonder if they are offering those free classes to help in the fight against pre-Alzheimer's.

At this point you feel like your ready to be put out to pasture. Not that I mind saving money, that I enjoy. It is just society's idea that your useful time has expired. Why not accept the change, turn into that horrible creature, and fly off?

There is another way that I felt Franz Kafkaesque. That is, that I am writing these articles only for my own pleasure. No one will ever read them, or, if they do, then they will realize that I have gone over the edge like Franz's character in his story.


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