It’s important to have existential crises sometimes. When authors come and use a sledgehammer on society’s institutions, it makes me wonder: What is the foundation for my work? What can be stripped from it and still be recognizable?
In The Trial, Franz Kafka presents us with a simple premise: What if someone got arrested without committing a crime? It goes further, picturing a bureaucracy of courts, officials and lawyers, busy droning away at their jobs. Doing what exactly? No one knows which law they are working to defend their client against. In addition, they, “were not moved simply by humanitarianism” and “lack contact with the common people” (117). Furthermore, their minds are “far from wishing to introduce or carry out any sort of improvement in the court system” (119).
So to recap, these lawyers work without an accusation, evidence, personality, humanitarianism or advocacy to make the system better. Kafka shows us that in this world, the only thing that keeps the lawyers useful are the personal contacts they have with the high officials, which they can bribe to let their clients breathe easier.
These literary thought experiments are useful because they make us question the essential components of our own professions. Stripped down from any context, my job might just sound like me giving out directions, awarding reward tokens, and deescalating triggering situations. With this information, I might realize I could infuse more purpose in my day to day with more instruction and life lessons. Or, I might see this as a blessing. Because my job isn’t always rigorous, it gives my brain extra time to think.
That’s obviously good for the future of this blog and for my work life, as it’s still in the construction phase.