Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Borges, A Dead Priest And The Author

 “A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.”
― Jorge Luis Borges, The Aleph and Other Stories

I was thinking tonight of the dead priest I was introduced to by an unseen presence. The boarding house was in ruins, barely managing to remain upright. It's several inhabitants who remained there by my seeing through their eyes, experienced their environment as it was, not as it is, as their memory told them it is, not moldering pieces of wood dropping one by one into the weeds.
The priest opened a door and introduced me to two elderly spinster sisters who sat in two armchairs on either side of an upright dresser. To the right was a window, to the left was a floor lamp. As an aside to me in a soft voice, he whispered "This is their harbor, the familiar, my role is to comfort them, and solace them in this refuge.."
My thoughts tonight are that the priest who also had a safe harbor in the familiar.
A darker patina paints this encounter many years later. What was he afraid of? Perhaps nothing. As with any direct experience, vividness doe not always translate into coherency.
There is no morality at play here. It was and is what it was.
Gurdjieff has said, "If you want to lose your religion, make friends with a priest."
He undoubtedly would label me a lunatic.
Tonight as I walked through the garden smoking a cigarette, my mind was churning with several propositions in regard to this encounter that remains strangely fresh.
Was the boarding house a parable, a metaphor or was it simply a boarding house? I said to myself that it is both here and there. It was both in ruin and as it was. The more I walked it was if a merry go round was slowly turning. Perhaps this was the movement of the planet on it's axis both facing the sun and here in the night, where one would be hard pressed to describe this as a state without some odd anecdotal insertion into apparent rotations such as the vividness of incoherency.

"The earth we inhabit is an error, an incompetent parody. Mirrors and paternity are abominable because they multiply and affirm it."
Jorge Lois Borges- "Hakim, the Masked Dyer of Merv"

Why is this so? I ask this as I recognize the whole is dependent on relations and I am some third cousin, a provincial rube, a monkey on a bicycle that must be necessary to a ecology, perhaps a tree or a coffee pot. A missing paragraph might be found in the wings of an aphid.

"Do you want to see what human eyes have never seen? Look at the moon. Do you want to hear what ears have never heard? Listen to the bird's cry. Do you want to touch what hands have never touched? Touch the earth. Verily I say that God is about to create the world."
- Jorge Luis Borges, "The Theologians"

It is the Borge's Aleph or The Crimson Hexagon, and his concept of the metaphysical novel of the universe constituted as a library, where every variation of a book is held whether it is a misplaced period or a transposed sentence and the eternal search by it's patrons to find the complete work recalls another librarian as author,Ray Bradbury.

“You must write every single day of your life... You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads... may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”
― Ray Bradbury

The boarding house comes to mind again as a page that it would be vainly arrogant of myself to claim any authorship of, whether it could be imagined as being proved in it's existence or remaining a liminal notation.I have a suspicion that I am more a medium than a message and perhaps judging by my own analysis, a nearly perfect but probably flawed projection would be...We all are a transposition of a transcription in a library of such works. Each of us holds the others missing page in a happenstance that is yet a prelude to something further beyond a rehearsal of pantomimes and trained parrots, while this cannot be discerned by any fractionation we could muster to classify it.

"If the pages of this book contain some successful verse, the reader must excuse me the discourtesy of having usurped it first. Our nothingness differs little; it is a trivial and chance circumstance that you should be the reader of these exercises and I their author."
- To the Reader" ["A quien leyere"], preface to Fervor of Buenos Aires [Fervor de Buenos Aires] (1923)


  1. Have you read "The Invention of Morel" by Adolfo Bioy Casares? It's dedicated to, and prologue written by, Jorge Luis Borges. Without giving away anything too specific, I think that given what you wrote above that you would enjoy it.