Dealing with Kafka with the Guinea Pigs' Help

Guinea pigs Tapper and Delmo kept me company today while I thought through a lesson plan on Franz Kafka's novella The Metamorphosis. My classes and I are again faced with the big existential questions, Why are we here? What makes life worth living? What is the meaning of life?

I'm tired of these self-important questions and the knee-jerk dark answers that come with them. The massacre at Virginia Tech last Monday leads me to refuse to hear these questions. Take your angst and take a walk. It has no place in this world.

Watching the guinea pigs, I came to the conclusion that these big existential questions that lead brilliant writers to kill themselves--Woolf and Hemingway, for examples--really are silly questions not worth answering. As Gregor Samsa the bug languishes behind closed doors in a text that ponders these things--scarcely recognizing that his paternalistic caring for his family is the very cause of their spiritual paralysis, that he can't get out of his own way any more than he can get out of theirs--life goes on and gets better for everyone else.

From the guinea pigs I derived a lesson plan on the irrelevance of these important questions. Tapper and Delmo rested in a cat bed--purpose-built fleece designed for the enemy, its true. They worked themselves around each other to make the most of their combined warmth. They burrowed their snouts in the fleece. They accepted the scrap of flannel I put across their backs. If one scratched the other while moving, the other squealed, making the fact known, and on went the day. No grudges down there in the cat bed. When I brought them food, they ate it. Life is simple.

I believe the answer to the big existential question, "What is the meaning of life?" is the other big question, "Want to cuddle?"


  1. You're right! The big existential questions sometimes are meant more to impress the other guninea pigs in the nest than to inform our life.

    When Lacy the yellow lab moves in my bed, she emits a low growl. This is my first dog, and I misinterpreted the growl at first. Now I know that it's a doggie announcement to the rest of the litter: it's dark, I'm moving, and DON'T snap at me.

    Not so much Kafka as it is Patton or Eastwood: "Go ahead, doggies, make my day!"

  2. We think we're more advanced because we can talk and type! Ha. The four-leggers have it over all of us. My black lab used to give everyone a chance to be loved. I mean everyone....! If anyone opted out of his affection, he moved on but he never stopped being himself. Smart dude. He too had prized nighttime real estate.


Post a Comment

Thanks for being here.