A debasement of Wisdom 2:12, 17, 134B:
“Let us beset the creative one,
because he is obnoxious to us.
He sets himself against our doing,
reproaches us for our steadfastness of the facts.
And charges us with violations of the possibilities.”
Jorge Luis Borges (once again and on purpose) confuses his readers with a fiction surrounding a proposed reality. And then, continuing his purpose, alludes to mystical practices, metaphysical occurrences and ancient tales. All of this in order to make us wonder if the central thesis is real or a continuance of his fiction.
Borges named his story “The Aleph” for reasons you will discover as his tale digests your mind (indeed, not the reverse, our minds can never totally digest Borges). He gift wraps “The Aleph” by sharing with us the personality of a boorish poet and one of Borges’ own human infatuations. This last sentence required the word “human” because Borges had many infatuations of various sorts.
I promise not to spoil Borges’ story but must at the very least inform you that it involves a method to view the universe, in its entirety, down to the least atom, from the beginning of time until the present. My hope is to give you a more modest version; however knowing full well that I will never reach the back of your mind the way that Borges can. Therefore I will take you to the back of my mind. I warn you that strange recesses will be exposed.
Like Borges I must take you to the cellar. Within that cellar is an armoire (or cupboard if that is your preferred word). Everything inside of the armoire has had a prior viewing by my self. By everything I mean each item; each nail, every safety pin, all written documents, each letter within each sentence, every comma and semi colon between sentences, all nick-knacks, teddy bears, singular pieces of clothing, ash trays and photographs, cup-cake trays, turkey basters and skeins of yarn. Each Hess truck, every fishing lure, beer mug, fossilized bone, sharks tooth, hand made tool, piece of flint, foreign coin and award. Documentation on various properties, legal complaints, utility bills, insurance plans, cancelled checks, computer algorithms, old calendars and various colored wild berries reside there.
As you open the armoire you instinctively and immediately wish to close it before the secrets fall out. Your eye catches three small bottles; each holding in its bowel the improbable contents of a uniquely designed and hand crafted fishing lure. These were created by one of my sons. They draw upon the memories of the Chateauguay River were we often fished, and where I fished with a good friend, who died in the fetal position from the pain of cancer and who also shared in the pungent aroma of Balsam trees that grew along the shoreline which held pine bushes no larger than two feet (in any direction), which hid the ancient barbed wire that clawed at our waders, unless we drove down the dirt path, which held large exposed boulders that threatened the oil pan (and yes, one of us would walk ahead most of the way simply to identify where the boulders were hidden beneath the spring ferns), until we spied the familiar remains of the old roofless toll house which identified the Canadian border, and then park the car whereupon one of us (fishing gear donned and pole in hand) would retreat back up the path that was once a road and now is no longer even a path, for thirty minutes and then another ten to scramble and slide down the steep hillside to reach the river, and fish towards each other for three hours before we met, the greatest amount of idle time spent fishing the clay banks or the salmon hole, then exchanging lies and contesting the size of each others fish, some ten years before my sons became intimate with the Chateauguay and then they convinced me that the Salmon was comparable if not better, and the same Chateauguay which at flood stage claimed the life of a young boy whose lifeless and decomposing body was found hanging in the branches of a bush by a man I once worked for (or with, for he worked with and for you and not the reverse), and together and with others we created education manuals for users of enterprise systems before our computer firm had a financial crunch and abandoned the costly project which some West Germans picked up and created SAP, which brings me to the beautifully crafted porcelain ashtrays with glaze covered decals proclaiming “Asbach Uralt” a favorite drink of the Germans, these ashtrays being liberated from a ski lodge on a trip that we took away from our temporary home in Hildrizhausen where we spent two years and my wife kept a diary and a scrap book which depicts and includes our auto accident in which I totaled a brand new Audi in the Black Forest after which a fellow worker (one Dr. Henn) was kind enough to administrate the negotiations with the rental car company which reminds me of the ‘beir stein’ with my initials engraved on it that was a gift from my co-workers in the Boeblingen Lab where I made several friends and subsequent visits to and with whom I miss the camaraderie continuing for several years to support their various products and projects, all the while my wife continued to complete several large needle-points that hang in my son’s house as well as her sister’s of who I should have mentioned before due to their unique position of having immigrated from Puerto Rico back in the 50’s which is one of the most beautiful locations in the world contesting even Hawaii where my sons and I took a ride to Caba Rojo (not the town but the actual Red Cape) that still held an abandoned light house on its cliffs surrounded by cacti so close to the ocean that it was a marvel that these arid territory plants could survive and almost as much a meta-physical anomaly as the ice pond that we saw below the hot red cliffs until we saw the tractor being driven on and breaking the ice which turned out to be a salt water evaporation pond with only the salt remaining as the ‘ice’ and not as scary as the scorpion that crawled out of the conch shell that we collected on the abandoned and lonely beach below the light house when we returned to my sister-in-law’s concrete cookie cutter house built for the low-income inhabitants that had worked their way out of the projects called ‘Caserio Las Lomas’, leaving the seat-less toilets, screen-less windows and bare-bulb ceiling lights behind so that in their own yards they could grow a few vegetables and banana trees but they missed the man who called out “Aquacate – – Aquacate” as he roamed the streets with his basket of Avocados and reminded me of the local vegetable man in Johnson City (New York) who carried a basket of eggs door to door whereupon he would invite the housewives out to view the squash and tomatoes he displayed from the tailgate of his station wagon which often was in contention with the truck of the ice-man who balanced a large block of ice on his shoulder (protected from the cold and melting ice by a piece of canvas) before he carefully placed it in our ice-box that we had prior to the gas fired refrigerator (which I always wondered how a hot flame could cool food and also make ice cubes) that we could only own after World War II which ended while I was watching a cowboy movie at the Enjoy Theater and everybody clapped and whistled when the theater manager stopped the movie to announce the end of the war and sirens and bells were sounding as my brother held my hand on the way home (but the whole thing was lost on me because of my young age) this is the same and only brother who was married three times and has spent a lonely twenty years flat on his back in a nursing home due to a severe stroke and a limited set of visitors, his only son died at an early age and all of his wives exist, a daughter visits at times and at great intervals a friend.
Also in the armoire is a book (which I may have previously alluded to) titled “Fossiling in Florida” written by a gentleman who lives in Lehigh Acres (FL) that depicts various types of fossils that one can find in the rivers, streams and excavations in Florida that may include sharks teeth, capybara teeth, camels teeth, dental pads, sloth claws and other parts of various pre-historic beings which caused me to obtain an amateur paleontology license to search for which I did every afternoon from 12:30 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. during my wife’s TV soap operas whereupon I would return to the travel trailer that we were living in with my paleontological treasures, wash the sand out of my sneakers and take a shower followed by a nice cold Southern Comfort Manhattan on a dock overlooking the Peace River with other snow birds involved in meaningless but pleasant conversation followed by a nice hot meal and this occurred day-after-day with some breaks to search for a new home in Florida only to have my wife suffer a heart attack and open heart surgery whereupon our three sons immediately drove down from NY to ensure that their mother was OK after which my wife and I decided that home would not be in Florida but rather in NY to which we returned and I found part time work in the Archaeology Department of the local university but it was not a cushy administrative job like I once had at an ivy league university some 50 miles northwest of our home and not like the no-brainer job I held at the multi-county library system delivering books up to 280 miles per day and worked with a fine bunch of people that could not figure out why I had attempted to retire five times and still could not get it right but yet enjoyed each and every task that I did in the 48 years which reminds me of the computer algorithms that are still stored in my armoire because I can not believe that I was able to do that kind of stuff and now I am a dinosaur who only is a user of a computer and can not do much more than load software from a CDROM but did some great things ages ago and am I ever glad I kept a scrap book and wrote memoirs down because someone somewhere sometime may be interested in it but (of course) never as interested as I am in myself and all my great accomplishments which returns me to the situation that Borges found himself in with the boorish self-centered poet.
This brings me to the end of my personal ‘Aleph’ in which I can see my whole world by just looking in my armoire. Each item brings out a memory which brings out another memory which splits into several other strings of seemingly (by not truly) unconnected memories ad-continuum ad-nauseum.
These memories carry me on several fishing trips, adventures in Europe, work safaris and learning experiences. It is my world from beginning to end. Meta-physical and psychological twists and turns make it as much fun as Borges’ ‘Aleph.’ Some parts of these memories are real and some are (I am sure of this) composites of several occurrences that have become blended together by an imperfect mind (if not by an imperfect psychology) that wished certain things to be true.
All of this came from a few fishing lures and ‘bier steins.’ Aren’t you glad that I didn’t look closely at the rest of all my personal eternity held in the armoire? If we get to know each other better I may tell you about the mental hospitals, the police cars in the driveway, the hands torn by machinery, the reprehensible personal errors that I have made and that I have never mentioned to anyone and which I obsess over from time to time. Maybe you can help me solve the haunting dreams of death, monsters, alien invasions and mysterious night vacations to South America.
On the other hand I realize that you have your own ‘Alephs’ to deal with and to enjoy. Be careful of what you keep in your Armoire.