'The Wire' -- 30 -- THE SUFFERING OF THE WORLD by Fonzie Kafka

Dateline: Tue 11 Mar 2008

The beautifully constructed and written series 'The Wire' aired its final episode Sunday.

A latecomer to this highly-acclaimed TV drama, I was drawn to this last of five seasons because of its focus on newsrooms and newspaper life; the series' creator David Simon is a Baltimore Sun dropout.

The drama about newspapers was real and rich and frustrating, but there was enough merit in other sub plots -- politics, police, the streets -- to make me a complete convert.

Reams of copy by seasoned TV critics and others has already been written about The Wire. I won't add my paltry reflections. But I wish to share a quote from Franz Kafka, used in just one of many amazing scenes.

A recovering drug addict, named Bubbles, is sitting on a darkened Baltimore street with his sponsor. Bubbles has just read a not-yet-published profile of him, written by a reporter at the Baltimore Sun who spent weeks on the streets with Bubbles. Bubbles is troubled by the writer's honesty and unsentimental examination of his life, which includes many mistakes and losses but has evolved into sobriety and service in a soup kitchen as well as repairing relationships in his family.

Bubbles complains, "He makin' me sound special for doin' what the f--- I need to be doin.'

His sponsor pulls out a wrinkled piece of paper from his wallet and hands it to Bubbles. Bubbles reads it aloud:

"YOU CAN HOLD BACK FROM THE SUFFERING OF THE WORLD. YOU HAVE FREE PERMISSION TO DO SO, AND IT IS IN ACCORDANCE WITH YOUR NATURE. BUT PERHAPS THE HOLDING BACK IS THE ONE SUFFERING YOU COULD HAVE AVOIDED.

"Hmm. Fonzie Kafka."

David Simon and the others who worked on this show did not hold back from the suffering of the world. Instead, they took their understanding of urban life, filtered it through the prism of art and delivered it intact with a rainbow of colors, some somber, some joyous.

If nothing else, the Kafka quote is worth sharing with readers.

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