If each of our lives is an unprompted answer to the question, What is the point of my life? Then the crow is such a perfect answer to its own question – that it freely forgets the question.
The best answer comes when you not only forget the question, but also the answer.
Humans often get drawn back into self-questioning in the hope of eventually finding a better answer. However, excessive self-questioning undermines life, such that life can feel like a repetitive and never ending Q&A session.
When watching a crow hopping on and off a grass verge, tearing road kill off the tarmac and then taking flight, we can only wonder what it is like to be a crow.
The crows I refer to throughout this blog are a species called the Kafka crow, they are a relative of the common crow.
What crows apparently understand, or perhaps are ignorant of, is that there is no vantage point outside life from which to assess questions, and judge answers. Humans also know this and yet struggle to stop seeking an objective perspective.
Many people look to psychotherapy to provide an outside perspective. What they get is a relationship that disabuses them of a belief in the need for objectivity.
If life can be judged at all, it is from the perspective of the totality of life itself. This is one reason why so many people seek the perspective of an all seeing religious or secular god in the form of ideology, philosophy, science, religion or “-ism”.
The urge to locate an outside perspective can be so strong that many people are led to believe such a ‘place’ exists.
The crows maintain that a single crow could destroy the heavens. There is no doubt of that, but it proves nothing against the heavens, for heaven simply means: the impossibility of crows.Franz Kafka
Though Kafka was clearly aware of the unwarranted malevolent and superstitious projections placed on crows, I do not think the aphorism is a defence of crows. Yet it does highlight the unfairness of such anthropomorphism, including my own.
Kafka crows do not appear to doubt their power and so they do not unnecessarily meddle with other species, nor do they needlessly destroy. In light of this, an envy of crows is understandable given their apparent lack of self doubt, and capacity for life such that they do not look elsewhere to affirm it.
The human animal’s surety of belief inclines it toward destruction. Much of this gets turned inward: masochism as self criticism, renamed as conscience.
We modern humans are the heirs of millennia of conscience-vivisection and cruelty to the animal-self: in this we have our longest practice, our artistry perhaps, in any case our sophistication, our over refinement of taste. For all too long man has regarded his natural inclinations with an “evil eye,” so that in him they have finally become wedded to “bad conscience.”Friedrich Nietzsche
Despite a single crow being able to destroy the heavens, it seems they have no desire to rob a humanity so inept at living in the moment, one that has so devalued life and itself that it felt the need to invent heaven. Or perhaps crows simply have better things to do.
By demonstrating no need of salvation or afterworlds crows present a real threat to the heavens. Just like humans, they belong only to the moment. This is how a single crow is capable of destroying the heavens.
Crows know their exclusion from heaven is not their doing; they see it for what it is: the fragility of heaven.
It was suffering and impotence – that created all afterworlds… Weariness, which wants to reach the ultimate with a single death-leap, a poor ignorant weariness, which no longer wants even to want: that created all gods and afterworlds.Friedrich Nietzsche
Heaven is the “great escape,” a means for humans to get away from life and the selves they have distorted themselves into. Kafka’s aphorism applies to secular, humanistic and religious groups, organisations and people. Heaven is any ‘place’ from which a believed outside perspective is possible for evaluating life.
What might the heavens be to a crow? I imagine they might see it is a divisive human invention for the pleasure of punishment and reward, prompted by a fear of forgetting the essential questions. Why fear forgetting? Why fear life? Why fear?
Crows do not fear forgetting the question, they either never registered one, or else they master forgetting as they live their answer.
Humans have to work at forgetting the question, this is hard won, and if it is not, they will eternally return to unnecessary self-questioning, self-analysis, projection, introjection and retroflection.
What life allows such forgetting? If you have not yet learnt to forget the important things, it may still be the life you have, only not the way you live it.
Might a belief in heaven be nothing more than an envy of crows? Crows do not know they are bad, and if they did, what has it to do with them?
The heavens provide a dualistic perspective that reassures us of right and wrong questions and answers, but only if you believe in it. If you believe, you need not learn to forget. In fact it is incumbent on you to remember, so that you can keep a tally of slights and wrongs; but who will you choose as your crows?’
‘Stop! Wait, the crows will destroy everything, they do not belong in heaven. Do not let them in!’
‘But surely they have committed no crime? They are just being themselves…’
‘No wait, look, they don’t want to come in. Let that be their sin!’
‘No! It’s not enough – we must go further, I want ‘the impossibility of crows’: we must cancel crows…’
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