With the oceans as his domain, Poseidon had free reign over wide swaths of flora and fauna, dominion over naval warfare and seafaring explorers, not to mention the flowing locks, chiseled features, and immortality of an Olympic god. But, as my Czech compatriot Franz Kafka knew all too well, even those that have everything, deities included, are still burdened by the inanities of existence. Kafka was obsessed with what he viewed, understandably, as the circular and oppressive logic of the modern socioeconomic apparatus.
As viewed through the author’s absurdist, surrealist lens, the breadth of Poseidon’s empire inevitably begat legions of bureaucracy; a mountain of paperwork that overwhelmed even the mighty ruler of the seas. In Poseidon, Kafka saw a figure trapped by his own success, by his own power. Possessing an ego commensurate with his godly stature, Poseidon had little faith in his minions to handle the minutiae of divine governance. Unable to delegate duties, Poseidon was reduced from the canonical to the clerical.
The irony of Poseidon being chained to his desk when he should be frolicking with nymphs or drinking ambrosia or both never ceases to make me smile. Kafka’s predilection for addressing the ludicrous ramifications of the working world resonates as powerfully now as it did in his day. He piques my interest not purely for literary or sociological reasons, but for personal ones as well.
Like Poseidon, I have trust issues. Or, less euphemistically, I may have an overinflated sense of my own capabilities. Or, I may fear the relinquishment of control over my work or those efforts which reflect upon me. Or, these are not mutually exclusive failings. Though enchanted by the potential joys of collaboration, I have rarely, if ever, been part of a group that I did not either formally or de facto lead.
Whether ultimately right or wrong, I have always been comfortable taking the risk of failure and accepting the consequences thereof. The only reason that I do not automatically label myself an egomaniac is because I am typically reticent to embrace the accolades that accompany success. Although, being intensely self-reflective and self-critical, I certainly consider the ill effects of my solipsistic tendencies.
In my current legal and mediation practices, I handle almost all matters solo, devoid of a paralegal or a secretary. Blessed with a gifted, hilarious, and supremely trustworthy law partner, we nonetheless have separate areas of focus and only occasionally work together on cases. One of the driving forces of this individualized mode of business is the freedom that it affords me to maximize time with Violet and/or outdoors. I also strongly value my direct contact with clients and like to believe that they feel the same way: there are no intermediaries between their problems and my solutions.
Perhaps though I am a much less exalted version of Poseidon, caught in the net of my own ego, stunted in my development by my choice to take the world upon my shoulders alone (not unlike Poseidon’s nemesis Atlas). The situation being exacerbated by my status as a single parent and I sometimes feel like a clerk cursed to stamp an infinite stack of documents.
Navigating the Kafkaesque banalities and frustrations of quotidian living is a challenge, especially when done on one’s own, but the truth is that I love running my own show. A social creature, but a lone wolf, I chafe under the presumptuous, if sometimes correct, direction of others. I have made much more work for myself, but unlike Kafka’s Poseidon, the chain connecting me to my desk stretches far enough to let me summit peaks and dive to colorful depths.