Thursday, September 2nd, 2004
In Jorge Luis Borges’ story The Aleph, “Borges” is shown a small object called the Aleph in Carlos Argentino’s basement. Here’s how the Aleph is described:
Under the step, toward the right, I saw a small iridescent sphere of almost unbearable brightness . . . The Aleph was probably two or three centimeters in diameter, but universal space was contained inside it, with no diminution inside.
The Aleph contains infinite space “contained” in a container about the size of a square inch. Here’s how the space inside is described:
Each thing [inside the space], 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 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 every letter of every page at once . . . saw the oblique shadows of ferns on the floor of a green house . . . saw the Aleph from everywhere at once . . . saw your face . . . the inconceivable universe.
Depending on point of view, such an object makes perfect sense. The Aleph is spherical, thus at whatever point it rests, it faces “all directions” outward and inward simultaneously. This doesn’t explain the object; the Aleph is an unexplainable mystery and dangerous, destructive, and wondrous. As space it is all of space, just as one circle is all circles. It’s a mystery of massive potential: a poem that reflects or contains all poems, a structure that is every structure simultaneously.
In this number, for example, 10, we can conceive of all numbers and combinations of numbers.
Thus, the “story” The Aleph IS the Aleph. It’s also The Zahir:
Tennyson said that if we could but understand a single flower we might know who we are and what the world is. Perhaps he was trying to say that there is nothing, however humble, that does not imply the history of the world and its infinite cancatenations of causes and effects . . . Perhaps he was trying to say that the visible world can be seen entire in every image, just as Schopenhauer tells us that the Will expresses itself entire in every man and woman . . . of one were to believe Tennyson, everything would be–everything. . .