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Old 10-21-2012   #1
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Borges and Time

What is J.L. Borges' conception of time? Below are some passages from the non-fictions that caught my attention:

"Theologians define eternity as the lucid and simultaneous possession of all instants of time, and declare it a divine attribute. Dunne, surprisingly, presumes that eternity already belongs to us, as corroborated by the dreams we have each night. In them, according to him, the immediate past and the immediate future intermingle."

"In times of ascendancy, the conjecture that man's existence is a constant, unvarying quantity can sadden or irritate us; in times of decline (such as the present), it holds out the assurance that no ignominy, no calamity, no dictator, can impoverish us."

"In the course of a life dedicated to belles-littres and, occasionally, to the perplexities of metaphysics, I have glimpsed or foreseen a refutation of time, one in which I myself do not believe, but which tends to visit me at night and in the hours of weary twilight with the illusory force of a truism."

"Life is too impoverished not to be also immortal."

"Outside each perception (real or conjectural), matter does not exist; outside each mental state, spirit does not exist; neither then must time exist outside each present moment."

"Is not one single repeated term enough to disrupt and confound the history of the world, to reveal that there is no history?"

"And yet, and yet ... To deny temporal succession, to deny the self, to deny the astronomical universe, appear to be acts of desperation and are secret consolations. Our destiny (unlike the hell of Swedenborg and the hell of Tibetan mythology) is not terrifying because it is unreal; it is terrifying because it is irreversible and iron-bound. Time is the substance of which I am made. Time is a river that sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that mangles me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am Borges."
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Old 10-21-2012   #2
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Re: Borges and Time

Interestingly, Borges also argues against Nietzsche's doctrine of the Eternal Return, by referring to the second law of thermodynamics (time as entropy or decomposition):

"Nietzche appeals to energy; the second law of thermodynamics declares that some energetic processes are irreversible. Heat and light are no more than forms of energy. It suffices to project a light onto a black surface to convert it into heat. Heat, however, will never return to the form of light. This inoffensive or insipid-seeming proof annuls the 'circular labyrinth' of the Eternal Return."

"One maximum entropy is reached, once different temperatures have been equalized, once any action of one body on another has been neutralized (or compensated for), the world will be a random assemblage of atoms. In the deep center of the stars, this difficult, mortal equilibrium has been achieved. By dint of constant interchange, the whole universe will reach it, and will be warm and dead."

It would be interesting to see how this dialectics of time is worked out (perhaps differently) in Borges' fictions. I might look at some of the stories - if I have the time ;)
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Old 10-21-2012   #3
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Re: Borges and Time

"I, unfortunately, am Borges" is a wonderful line. Although elsewhere he knew that he was only one of the Borges. There are, we may be glad, an infinite number of Borges. And each time each one of these raises a silver eyebrow they create an infinity more.
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Old 10-21-2012   #4
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Re: Borges and Time

Thanks for reminding me, Sand. I realize the quotes above may have left an impression of a far too earth-bound Borges. ;) Also, your post made me think of "The garden of Forking Paths":

"Unlike Newton or Schopenhauer, your ancestor did not believe in a uniform and absolute time; he believed in an infinite series of times, a growing, dizzying web of divergent, convergent, and parallel times. That fabric of times that approach one another, fork, are snipped off, or are simply unknown for centuries, contains all possibilities. In most of those times, we do not exist; in some, you exist but I do not; in others, I do and you do not; in others still, we both do."

"I felt again that pullulation I have mentioned. I sensed that the dew-drenched garden that surrounded the house was saturated, infinitely, with invisible persons. Those persons were Albert and myself - secret, busily at work, multiform - in other dimensions of time."

By the way, Borges often mentions Poe's Eureka in relation to the concept of "similar but not identical cycles". I am going to read the prose poem this very evening, and I am obviously very excited.
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Old 06-03-2013   #5
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Re: Borges and Time

This looks interesting, and there's a catalogue. I think I'll be playing Solar's Game in my dreams, or I hope so:

Xul Solar and Jorge Luis Borges: The Art of Friendship | AS/COA
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