Letters to Kafka

Deliberate decisions and staying open no matter what

If you define how the world must be for you to open, you will close. Better to find a way of staying open no matter what

Dear Franz,

I’ve slept a little longer these past two mornings, Franz — a lie-in to 535am — and played with my companion cat, Misha, a while, and so finally get to writing around 6am, and yet even this delay fills me with a feeling of already having started too late today! Can you imagine… Well, this is why I write to you, Franz. Of all the people, I imagine you can.

Of course this is not new. That I cannot simply write for fun, for pleasure, for myself, but have to be ‘doing’ something productive, working all the time on a project, completing, proving, not wasting time… We’ve been through this before. But it is crazy that I put such demands on myself that 6am is too late to begin! It fills my midden with frustration and anger when I should be filling my body with enthusiasm — enthusiasm is enough.

Which is why I have come back to writing to you, Franz. For this joy. “Pay attention when you feel love and enthusiasm,” says Michael D. Singer in The Untethered Soul. “Then ask yourself why you can’t feel like this all of the time.”

Staying Open Untethered SoulWell, I felt enthusiasm yesterday morning, Franz, when I woke and understood that I have to write the book about my father next — that this is where my inner energy needs to go right now. It is this thing in my throat that I felt shift a little during the Reiki session with my therapist on Tuesday. It is what I need to say.

I thought of you, Franz, and your letter to your father (which was never sent). I thought of what I need to say — either to or about my father. I have been feeling pretty low since the episode on the tube train. The Reiki really helped — I could see my energy shift, and balance. I could feel the blockages,  but also insight into how to move those blockages — to stay open.

I felt all this — enthusiasm, enthusiasm was enough — yesterday morning as I sat in a sandwich shop and drank my decaf Americano and looked out of the window. I thought of your protagonist looking out of the porthole as he arrives at Ellis Island in Amerika. With some trepidation, of course, but also with some enthusiasm, I think, too? I was reading Gosse’s Father and Son, because I have deliberately chosen, Franz, to put aside the next animal book for now, and the new novel, to concentrate on writing my ‘father book’. And this act of reading and thinking and looking out of the cafe window filled me with enthusiasm.

The question is: can I feel like this all of the time? Can I choose not to close my heart and “let the situation take place and be with it” (Singer again). Isn’t it better to always be open? This is how I was before and leading up to the incident on the tube where I thought I saw him — my missing father. And this perhaps is what brought together all of that synchronicity: the leaving the conference early, finding the book with No.44 on its cover, getting the earlier train to London, waiting for the later tube, and then seeing him… even though it was not him. And yet it taught me, did it not, Franz, to be with the situation and let it take place, no matter what. To be with the grief that welled up from inside me. (Even though I pushed it down, my body said: no, no more, and pushed that grief straight back out, which is why I got so sick for two days, and why, perhaps, I then fell back into being closed…)

I have spent my life — not all of it, but much — manipulating life so that I can control what I am affected by. But, as Singer says,

“you simply realise that defining what you need in order to stay open actually ends up limiting you.” (I would say severely, too.) “If you have made lists of how the world must be for you to open, you have limited your openness to those conditions. Better to be open no matter what.”

And I know my heart has been closed, Franz. To intimacy, and to enthusiasm. To so much. There is a heart-wall, a skein, a thickness over it that I am shucking off — getting rid of the armour that protects it, and myself. I am choosing deliberately to open. Which is why I am also choosing deliberately to write this father book, even though I am pulled, tugged and implored to do more for animals, right now, all the time, with so much injustice and suffering in the world. So the father book will also be about this. It has to be, for it to be mine.

I know that to give all I can to the world and my purpose I must stop the whirling inside that pulls me between two powerful poles of energy: of taking on too many burdens because I don’t feel I am (doing) enough, and then always feeling as if I am doing the wrong thing/things wrong. These two fears of disappointing the other is the twisting, draining, whirling energy of antagonism with my father.  For my world to manifest in a peaceful, joyful, loving way, I need to stop this inner whirling which wastes so much of my inner energy. I need to find the ways to “stay open, no matter what”. So I need to write this book about my father. And that is what I am going to do, Franz. with love, and joy, and enthusiasm.

*I have just discovered Franz that Amerika was also subtitled/known as The Man Who Disappeared or The Missing Person. And that the review of Father and Son above was published on my birthday. Perhaps one lesson for when life is filled with joy and enthusiasm, Franz, is that these synchronicities arise, or that I am at least open — heartfully open — to seeing them.

About Alex R Lockwood

I learn as much about the the art of living through literature (especially Kafka) as I do through other people. I read and write fiction and non-fiction, and research the cultural value of the creative writer; the ways that literature impacts our lives; the craft of writing, particularly what it means to be a non-anthropocentric (vegan) writer; the representation of animals; and the ethics of human-animal relations in literature, media and culture since 1945. This site is a platform for capturing the threads of different literary projects and, I hope, offers something to those thinking through the value of reading and writing in their lives.

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