Tags: borges

cass, can you not

Quote search help

My search-foo is failing me miserably. I have a very strong memory about an anecdote of a philosopher (? and/or soldier?) who was about to cross a desert (one of Alexander's desert crossings, maybe?) and poured all of his water, saying something like (but only like, as Google returns nothing) If I'm going to be thirsty, I'm already (let me already be?) thirsty. I thought this was from Borges, but I can't find it.

Any help/tips/pointer will be more than welcome.

ETA: Found it! It was a Borges poem.

Antes de entrar en el desierto
los soldados bebieron largamente el agua de la cisterna.
Hierocles derramó en la tierra
el agua de su cántaro y dijo:
Si hemos de entrar en el desierto,
ya estoy en el desierto.
Si la sed va a abrasarme,
que ya me abrase.

Ésta es una parábola.
Antes de hundirme en el infierno
los lictores del dios me permitieron que mirara una rosa.
Esa rosa es ahora mi tormento
en el oscuro reino.
A un hombre lo dejó una mujer.
Resolvieron mentir un último encuentro.
El hombre dijo:
Si debo entrar en la soledad
ya estoy solo.
Si la sed va a abrasarme,
que ya me abrase.

Ésta es otra parábola.
Nadie en la tierra
tiene el valor de ser aquel hombre.

(El Desierto)
cass, can you not

I like Borges' poetry, and random musings about timelessness

It rains

In what yesterday, in what courtyards of Carthage,
falls also this rain?

I always find this very small poem weirdly evocative, particularly when it rains. There's something timeless about it: wherever and whenever it rains, it is the same rain. This sort of empirical Platonism is one of Borges' peculiar threads; off the top of my head, he has a poem about wolves being out of time, one where the desert is a single timeless place (I always wanted to write something based on that), and one about an abbey rebuilt (I think) in New York, with a beautiful line about its flowers not opening before the Vikings first reach America.

He's a Platonist, but not a Christian (if anything, he was a Gnostic that assumed ultimate reality was a Library, weirdly in tune with recent cosmological models based on an informational substrate, but that's neither here nor there). Unlike medieval thinkers, he didn't think that, say, events in the Old Testament were practice/predictions of the (only) meaningful events of the Passion (and, later from their point of view, but already preordained) Judgement. There was no One True Rain in history; at most, there was an archetypal One True Rain in some abstract space of ideas, and it probably didn't even look like anything we'd recognize as rain.

This is fresh in my mind because the other day I was reading a book about Gothic Art, and how medieval artists mixed historical figures with contemporary clothes, tools, etc, not because they were naive about those kinds of changes (although they did know less than we do in a lot of ways), but because for them those weren't *important* differences. What mattered was the spiritual/salvational meaning of the event, which tended to be the same across the eras, and it was always in relation to the Creation-Fall-Passion-Judgement timeline.

And then it hit me: Steampunk is a very, very old tradition. I mean, if the fundamental myth/event of your civilization is the/a/any technological revolution, then of course you'll mix and match technologies and places, because ultimately you're telling a mythical story. You're okay with Churchill sending armies of Turing Tin Soldiers to fight Nazi V7 auto-factories in German-occupied Russia not because you ignore the complexities of history, but because robot armies and autofactories are beginning to have as much mythical resonance to us as, well, Allies and Nazis.