The commandment of eternity

I should welcome eternity, and when I do find it I am sad. I should feel myself perfect by virtue of eternity – and feel myself depressed?

You say: I should – feel. In saying this do you express a commandment that is within yourself?

That is what I mean.

Now, it is impossible that only a commandment is implanted in you, in such a way that you only hear that commandment and that nothing more happens. Is it a continual or only an occasional commandment?

As to that, I cannot be sure. I believe, however, it is a continual commandment, but that I hear it only occasionally.

From what do you draw that conclusion?

From the fact that I hear it, as it were, even when I do not hear it, in such a way that, although it is not audible itself, it muffles or embitters the voice bidding me do the other thing: that is to say, the voice that makes me ill at ease with eternity.

And do you hear the other voice in a similar way when the commandment of eternity is speaking?

Yes, then too, indeed sometimes I believe I hear nothing but the other voice and everything else seems to be only a dream and it is as though I were just letting the dream go on talking at random.

Why do you compare the inner commandment to a dream? Does it seem senseless as a dream, incoherent, inevitable, unique, making you happy or frightening you equally without cause, not wholly communicable, but demanding to be communicated?

All that – senseless; for only if I do not obey it can I maintain myself here; incoherent, for I don’t know whose command it is and what he is aiming at; inevitable, for it finds me unprepared, descending upon me as surprisingly as dreams descend upon the sleeper, who, after all, since he lay down to sleep, must have been prepared for dreams. It is unique, or at least seems to be so, for I cannot obey it, it does not mingle with reality, and so it keeps its immaculate uniqueness; it makes me happy or frightens me, both without cause, though admittedly it does the first much more rarely than the second; it is not communicable, because it is not intelligible, and for the same reason it demands to be communicated.

— Kafka, The Blue Octavo Notebooks (tr. Kaiser and Wilkins)

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