Archive for August 24th, 2009

Come, Little Donkey, Come

The paper rustled under his swishing priest’s robes, and I told him we were crossing a field of promises. I told him the eschatologies seemed to me like a bunch of hay dangled in front of a donkey to induce him to go on pulling a cart. “But mankind needs to set its sights on something lofty and distant,” said Adolf. “Think of the strength that the attraction of heaven gave to people in the Middle Ages.”

“Yes,” I said. “The donkey pulled the cart. It thought it was pulling the cart heavenwards, and soon it would reach paradise, where there were no loads to carry, evergreen pastures, and the beasts of prey were friendly companions.round and round But gradually the donkey realized that heaven was drawing no nearer, it grew tired, and the hay of religion no longer induced it to step out bravely. So lest the cart come to a halt, the donkey’s hunger was switched to an earthly paradise, a socialist park where all donkeys will be equal, the whip will be abolished, where there will be lighter loads and improved fodder, but then the road to this Eden turns out to be just as long, the end is just as far off, and the donkey becomes stubborn again. But in fact, he was wearing blinkers the whole time, so that he never realized that he was just going round and round, and that he wasn’t pulling a cart but a carousel, and perhaps all we are is a sideshow on a fairground of the gods, and at the end of their day out, the gods have forgotten to tidy the carousel away, and the donkey is still pulling it, only the gods have forgotten all about us.”
                                                                      —Death in Rome, Wolfgang Koeppen


When I Worked

August 2009
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