I recently finished the Wordsworth Classics Essential Kafka; my verdict: Kafka was a massive narcissist. As I read through the unfinished novels and short stories I pieced together evidence to support that claim: Kafka’s relationship with his perfectionist father; the presence of an oppressive authority (the narcissist’s super-ego); the fact that his main characters were irresistible to women and his white knight complex; the fact that much of his work was unfinished when he died; his complete disdain for the characters who are beneath his main characters in the stories; his long uninterrupted passages of speech which barely move the plot forward.
One particular metaphor stands out: in Metamorphosis Gregor Samsa wakes up and finds that he’s been transformed into an insect overnight. Over the course of the short story the family discover him and his father acts violently towards him, driving him back into his room. Later on Gregor has an apple thrown at him which sticks in his back and never heals: a metaphorical narcissistic injury. Eventually he dies and the family are happy to be rid of him (or ‘it’, as they decide that what the insect was was never Gregor anyway).
Metamorphosis reads to me as one big allegory of how Kafka viewed himself i.e. his evaluation of his true self and what would happen if he revealed it to everyone. Compare that to before his transformation where Gregor is the breadwinner for his whole family and sets them up in their own apartment. It’s easy to link that pre-transformation Gregor to the false self: the perfect being.
Would I recommend that you read Kafka? Only if you’re interested in philosophy and even then, it’s more about paying your dues than gaining pleasure from reading it. The classic interpretation is that Kafka was writing about life under the stifling bureaucracy of the Austro-Hungarian empire but I saw enough evidence that made me think that he was just writing about himself.
Given that this is a blog about Daygame, how can we take some lessons from Kafka?
The first would be to stay away from long, rambling DHVs which don’t engage the listener. Inside this collection there were many, many paragraphs which spanned multiple pages. I’d find myself moving my eyes over the words but not taking any of it in as the speaker would waffle on about their dreary lives.
#1: if you’re going to speak for an extended period on any topic then you have to engage the girl and get her input so as to personalise the story for her. A good storyteller, or a good teacher if you’re pursuing the intellectual mastery route, brings the words to life and doesn’t follow a purely functional ‘first this happened then this happened…’ structure.
The second relates to perfectionism and bemoaning a state of play which you can’t change. The streets might not be filled with the kind of girls who are your 10s but you can hardly change that. The streets might be filled with attractive girls but nonetheless ones who aren’t your type. The streets might even be filled with girls who are just your type but are logistically unavailable.
In both The Trial and The Castle the main character fusses over the fact that he can’t make contact with the highest authority which for Kafka was his super-ego: the entity which enforces perfectionism on him. Kafka chases after perfection but can never make contact with it, and neither can a Daygamer.
#2: a good Daygamer accepts the cards he’s been dealt and does his best with them. There are very few things you can actually control in Daygame. Perhaps only the length of time you spend on the street or the distance covered is in your hands, and even then what if you’re ill or the weather is awful? The stats of the guys who are the best at this are a good thing to aim at but they’re taking into account conditions which make Daygame possible. And even then, given the difference in baseline SMVs your absolute best stats might only be half as good as the guys you look up to. My point is to not beat yourself up: set yourself a reasonable goal and then mostly forget about it. The only time you should care is if you’re not pulling your weight which a wing can probably attest to.
The third would be all about committing to change. It’s been said that Daygame is a multi-year project where you change everything about yourself, and I agree with that. Too many guys hop from one guru to the next hoping that the new regurgitation of lines or the new gimmick will bring them the kind of success they want. The one thing they’re diametrically opposed to is becoming the kind of guy who gets the kind of success they want (Inner Game change).
One trait of narcissists is that they never finish their work because that would mean emotionally committing to something and therefore risking narcissistic injury; it triggers their fear of abandonment. The ironic thing about Metamorphosis is that it was one of Kafka’s few finished pieces, and also, in my opinion, his best.
#3: finish what you start. If you told yourself you’ll do a lap of your usual route then finish it. If you tell yourself you’ll escalate up to a certain point on a date and then ease off then do that, and don’t be tempted to over or under escalate. This carries over to things that are not directly Game related such as going to the gym. It’s common that as someone goes 80% of the way towards a goal that they start getting tempted by whatever the next project is. The problem with that is that it makes you a jack of all trades while in the urban environment specialisation is king. By closing that last 20% you’ll build a mindset whereby you see that you can achieve things once you set your mind to it and actually move towards that goal.