Excruciatingly Large Things

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Borges on the Nature of the Infinite

→ by Danieru
Abstractions abound here on The Huge Entity. Thoughts multiply, recombine and surface anew as entities of shimmering complexity. After some of these thoughts grow shadows, luminous and independant, awaiting their own responses; dealing in their own echoes with which new thoughts will be manifested. Sometimes these thoughts were better formed elsewhere. Greater clarity throughout history, within culture, no more can be found. Today Borges will enhance our abstractions. His works are no mere fictions, they are tools which better focus this world. Absorb them here...

On the Infinity of The Aleph:
Under the step, toward the right, I saw a small iridescent sphere of almost unbearable brightness. At first I thought it was spinning; then I realized that the movement was an illusion produced by the dizzying spectacles inside it. The Aleph was probably two or three centimeters in diameter, but universal space was contained within it, with no diminution in size. Each thing, (the glass surface of a mirror, let us say) was infinite things, because I could clearly see it from every point in the cosmos.

I saw the populous sea, saw dawn and dusk, saw the multitudes of the Americas, saw a silvery spider web at the center of a black pyramid, saw a broken labyrinth (it was London), saw endless eyes, all very close, studying themselves in me as though in a mirror, saw all the mirrors on the planet (and none of them reflecting me), saw in a rear courtyard on Calle Soler the same tiles I'd seen twenty years before in the entryway of a house in Fray Bentos, saw clusters of grapes, snow, tobacco, veins of metal, water vapor, saw convex equatorial deserts and their every grain of sand ... saw every letter of every page at once (as a boy I would be astounded that the letters in a closed book didn't get all scrambled up), saw simultaneous night and day ... saw the delicate bones of a hand, saw the survivors of a battle sending postcards, saw a Tarot card in a shop window in Mirzapur, saw the oblique shadows of ferns on the floor of a greenhouse, saw tigers, pistons, bisons, tides, armies, saw all the ants on the earth ... saw the circulation of my dark blood, saw the coils and springs of love and the alterations of death, saw the Aleph from everywhere at once, saw the earth in the Aleph, and the Aleph once more in the earth and the earth in the Aleph, saw my face and my viscera, saw your face, and I felt dizzy, and I wept, because my eyes had seen that secret, hypothetical object whose name has been usurped by men but which no man has ever truly looked upon: the inconceivable universe.

Taken from The Aleph (and other stories)

On the Infinite Library of Babel:
The methodical task of writing distracts me from the present state of men. The certitude that everything has been written negates us or turns us into phantoms. I know of districts in which the young men prostrate themselves before books and kiss their pages in a barbarous manner, but they do not know how to decipher a single letter. Epidemics, heretical conflicts, peregrinations which inevitably degenerate into banditry, have decimated the population. I believe I have mentioned suicides, more and more frequent with the years. Perhaps my old age and fearfulness deceive me, but I suspect that the human species -- the unique species -- is about to be extinguished, but the Library will endure: illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly motionless, equipped with precious volumes, useless, incorruptible, secret.

I have just written the word 'infinite', I have not interpolated this adjective out of rhetorical habit; I say that it is not illogical to think that the world is infinite. Those who judge it to be limited postulate that in remote places the corridors and stairways and hexagons can conceivably come to an end -- which is absurd. Those who imagine it to be without limit forget that the possible number of books does have such a limit. I venture to suggest this solution to the ancient problem: The Library is unlimited and cyclical. If an eternal traveler were to cross it in any direction, after centuries he would see that the same volumes were repeated in the same disorder (which, thus repeated, would be an order: the Order). My solitude is gladdened by this elegant hope.

Taken from Labyrinths

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Blogger ¬°Benjaminista! said...

Borges is brilliance personified.

May 17, 2006 4:21 AM    

Blogger Danieru said...

Indeed. I have rarely been so shocked to the core as when I first came upon his works. There are some humans who have an intense capacity to unveil the blinds obscuring reality's true light. Philip K Dick was one such person, as were the late greats Aldous Huxley and Olaf Stapledon. Borges stands proud amongst them without ever having produced a full length novel. Perhaps his verbal restraint increased the appropriate power of each idea he observed.

Who are our contemporay reality splitters I wonder?

May 19, 2006 2:57 AM    

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