Civilization is rapidly melting like a butter castle in the sun. The turning of a Gregorian calendar can’t stop it. Institutions can’t stop it. But we can, maybe. And if we can’t, we can all at least comfort each other to the end with campy subversion.
Happy New Year. Here’s a short story by Kafka, who I’d left in 12th grade English, but who apparently hasn’t left us.
A Chinese Puzzle
Once there was a Chinese puzzle, a cheap simple toy, not much bigger than a pocket watch and without any sort of surprising contrivances. Cut into the flat wood, which was painted reddish-brown, there were some blue labyrinthine paths, which all led into a little hole. The ball, which was also blue, had to be got into one of the paths by means of tilting and shaking the box, and then into the hole. Once the ball was in the hole, the game was over, and if one wanted to start all over again, one had first to shake the ball out of the hole. The whole thing was covered over with a strong, convex glass; one could put the puzzle in one’s pocket and carry it about with one, and wherever one was, one could take it out and play with it.
If the ball was unemployed, it spent most of the time strolling to and fro, its hands clasped behind its back, on the plateau, avoiding the paths. It held the view that it was quite enough bothered with the paths during the game and that it had every right to recuperate on the open plain when no game was going on. Sometimes it would look up at the vaulted glass, but merely out of habit and quite without any intention of trying to make anything out up there. It had a rather straddling gait and maintained that it was not made for these narrow paths. This was partly true, for indeed the paths could hardly contain it, but it was also untrue, for the fact was that it was very carefully made to fit the width of the paths exactly, but the paths were certainly not meant to be comfortable for it, or else it would not have been a puzzle at all.