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Content Any Way U Want It!

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Morals from fables helpful, can be applied to personal life

Since Halloween’s coming, I’ve translated one of the scariest stories I know: “A Little Fable” by Franz Kafka.

“It’s awful,” said the mouse. “The world is closing in on me more every day. At first it was so wide that I was scared. I kept on running and was happy to finally see walls in the distance, on the right

and left.

But those long walls are zooming toward each other so quickly that now I’m in the last room and there in the corner is the trap I’m headed for.”

“You only have to change directions,” the cat said, and gobbled up the mouse.

We have some features of a fable: talking animals and a moral. But what kind of a moral is that?

The cat seems to have the mouse’s interests at heart, but as soon as the cat’s mouth gives the advice, it swallows up the mouse.

In Aesop’s fables, we can tell what the main critter does wrong.

The fox can’t reach the grapes and decides they must be sour. The grasshopper sings but unlike the ant he stores no food for the winter. The hare is overconfident and the tortoise wins.

But what is Kafka’s mouse doing wrong? He’s just escaping a troubling situation— the world is so vast— and running toward more security. He’s glad to see those walls, which promise to provide certainty.

What’s wrong with that?

But the walls lead him to a dead end and a mousetrap and out of nowhere comes the cat, who pretends to save the mouse only to devour him.

Kafka shows how hard it is to change directions.

Gregor Samsa in “The Metamorphosis” turns into an insect but insists on trying to act human. Josef K. in “The Trial” is outraged at being accused, but when he tries to resist the Law it simply sucks him into its power. Both men meet fates similar to the mouse’s.

So what’s the moral of the story? With fables and parables, we can draw parallels to our own lives.

We claim to love personal freedom, but the wide world scares us, so we seek security. As security increases, personal freedom decreases.

We like walls to protect us, but they also close us in.

And before we know it, our pursuit of security has turned into a mousetrap, whether it is a course of study, a job, student debt or a mortgage. And there are lots of cats willing to give us advice that fits in with

their interests.

When people think of Kafka, they usually think of impersonal institutions. But the mouse’s own rush toward his little corner of the world is just as “Kafka-esque” as mousetraps and cats.

Kafka shows how high the stakes are: if we want security, we’d better be ready to give up freedom. If we want freedom, we’d better be prepared to give up security.

Maybe you can have some of both, but that will only happen if you pursue a college education not only to secure a future, but also to learn what is really at stake in your life.

And sometimes stories can tell us more about that than self-help books.

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