When I was in graduate school pursuing my Master’s Degree, I had a professor who taught an entire course focusing on one single piece of literature: Franz Kafka’s novel, The Trial.
At the time, it seemed strange to me that the entire semester would be devoted to studying just that one novel. We were required to write a definitive paper for the course about the significance of the novel. I labored over this assignment for a long period of time but could not seem to determine what it was the professor wanted us to recognize. Eventually, I had a discussion with a fellow student in the class who explained to me that Kafka’s novel could be read one way to make a very compelling point. But it could also be read a second way to convey a completely opposite meaning.
It took a real challenge to my intellect for me to take Kafka’s novel and step back and give it some perspective so that I could see it from two completely different points of view. I was finally able to do it, but only now looking at my life experiences do I understand what I think the method was in my professor’s “madness“.
This morning, many years later, I feel I am finally realizing the rationale my professor might very well have had in mind. This graduate school course exercise seems to me now to be designed to reinforce an important truth about life: We see what we already believe or, to be more precise, what we are prepared and willing to believe about the world and, most especially, about ourselves.
It is incredibly easy to see what we EXPECT to be there…what we already believe about ourselves and others. The life snapshots we click on seem so real and so “rational” and so we file them away as objective evidence of the beliefs we are already holding, completely ignoring the fact that they validate and justify the life conclusions we have made to that point in time which steadfastly occupy the submerged part of the iceberg which is our subconscious.
And so, trapped in the tundra of our early life impressions and experiences, how do we emerge to free ourselves and discover what else the canvas holds?
My graduate school professor MADE us look for more and I am left with the prospect of considering whether there is ALWAYS more. And it seems to me there is and failing to recognize that is to overlook important information that would increase our awareness of the issues that complicate our lives and our empathy for the individuals struggling through them.
What if, as a practice, we made ourselves search for whatever could prove the opposite of what we believe?
Where could this lead us? Would it make us more empathic? More open? More aware? More cognizant of vital information? Would it source all of our actions in LOVE?
Without opening ourselves up to the possibility that there is more to the story, we may very well assign ourselves the role of existing in the small, constructed room we have built around our hearts. We may fail to see the pain that others are enduring. We may also fail to see the beauty, the caring, the love that is being expressed to us in ways that we do not readily recognize.
We need to step out of our own limited experience and open ourselves up to the mystery and wonder of the myriad of ways that people respond to life.
I have heard this profound truth expressed before. I have even recognized myself at times as bound to my currently operating beliefs. But I have not been moved to transcend this practice until today as I, with great curiosity and excitement, recall my graduate course in Kafka.
I wonder how many things we experience in life failing to understand the power of their significance.
It seems worth the effort to move past our already formulated, sometimes cursory assessments and open ourselves up to the mystery hiding in the corners of our lives. The great thirteenth century mystic Rumi advises us to “sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment.”
Following Rumi’s guidance will undoubtedly lead us to some new wisdom. Perhaps THIS is the real TRIAL awaiting us. Will we eventually reach the point where we can see beyond the boundaries that we have constructed for ourselves through the necessity for our survival or by the world itself moving through its own evolution?
image from pinterest
Imprimer à partir d'aquarelle mode Illustration par Mysoulfly ...