We are faced with decisions every day of our lives. What to eat for breakfast. What clothes to wear that day. Whether we can afford that new phone, or we should wait until next week’s paycheck. Insignificant or life changing, choices are everywhere. In Frank Kafka’s parable “Before the Law,” we see an old man weigh the pros and cons of going through a gate leading to the Law that is protected by a gatekeeper.
The summary of this parable is short and sweet; if you don’t try, nothing will happen. A man wants to change the Law because he doesn’t agree with what is happening. He finds the gate to the Law, spends the remainder of his life waiting for the gatekeeper to let him through. The gatekeeper says he may proceed, but he also tells him of the other gates and gatekeepers he will encounter and the man becomes discouraged. The man tries many things to get through including bribing and nothing works. He complains and thinks, but never acts and that is his issue. He eventually grows old and dies without ever doing anything and the gates to the Law are closed forever.
There are times in all of our lives when we are the man. This parable is very relatable, which makes it applicable and an effective way to teach. The personification of the Law also adds to the depth of the lesson. The Law can be anything. It can be that college you always wanted to apply to, but are afraid of being rejected from. It can be a person you want to be friends with. It can be literally anything.
One of the lessons I took from “Before the Law” is that it is important to choose your battles. Save your energy for the big times when the Law isn’t right. If there is something you don’t like or think is unfair, take action and change it! Stand up to the Law if it is the right thing to do. Be like Antigone and give your brother a proper burial even though it is disobeying the Law. Walk through the gate and say, “This is the right thing to do, so I’m going to do it. No one owns me.” Go further into the Law and change it so life can be better for everyone.