The Self at the Center

“Then I reflected that all things happen to oneself, and happen precisely, precisely now.”

Jorge Luis Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths”*


Andreas Cellarius, Planisphaerium Ptolemaicum

Man. One of the many things I love about Borges? The fact that you’re not quite sure, sometimes, whether a statement like that is meant to be taken as is, as commentary on the speaker and/or what’s going on, as proof of a delusion, or as any number of other interpretations. In the story in question, I’m guessing it’s option one and/or three; I haven’t decided yet, and haven’t checked out any secondary literature on this piece that I first read ca. fifteen years ago. (In fact, I may not seek out the advice of official others at all, and might instead re-read the thing a few times to see what ends up sinking in and/or coming to the surface.)

If (and maybe especially if) a delusion– if, even in successfully communicating his information to Hitler, our anti-hero is mistakenly according himself a place in the centrality of the universe– that little sentence, even lifted from its well-crafted context, speaks volumes about everyone, at some point in his/her life. It’s certainly what some new-age-type gurus would have us believe, with bright encouragement to construct vision boards and to rearrange the subatomic structure of the cosmos with right thinking, the better to achieve positive outcomes for our little selves. And it’s certainly what at least one colleague and I were feeling this morning, as we hosted a Big Event and wondered whether we were doing the right thing, paranoid that idiot slip-ups on our respective parts would wreck the whole show. Sometimes, a deluded sense of grandeur, as in the story, ends in crime and falling bombs; sometimes, as happened in the real world this a.m., it just means you care.

In my own, post-bash universe, the everything that happened now, just to myself, over the course of four hours, was one of the best naps I’ve had in a long time, while outside, the perfect, fog-laden sleeping weather settled in. It was almost as if the afternoon had been made just for little ol’ me…


* In Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, translated by Andrew Hurley (New York: Penguin, 1998), 120.


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