Jorge Luis Borges, “Everness”

It isn’t necessarily my goal to always cite poems to which I happen to open a book at random, but for the second time in a row, I can’t help myself, after reading the random poem in question. This translation comes from Richard Wilbur’s New and Collected Poems:


One thing does not exist: Oblivion.
God saves the metal and he saves the dross,
And his prophetic memory guards from loss
The moons to come, and those of evenings gone.
Everything is: the shadows in the glass
Which, in between the day’s two twilights, you
Have scattered by the thousands, or shall strew
Henceforward in the mirrors that you pass.
And everything is part of that diverse
Crystalline memory, the universe;
Whoever through its endless mazes wanders
Hears door on door click shut behind his stride,
And only from the sunset’s farther side
Shall view at last the Archetypes and the Splendors.

Jorge Luis Borges (Richard Wilbur, trans.)

Lately, deep inside volume one of Kierkegaard’s Either/Or, I’ve been thinking a lot about the despair of belief and the relief of doubt. How those who claim that they “doubt” too much to believe in God are taking such an easy and really silly path, as if doubt matters or is even interesting.

To look inside ourselves and see that we, in fact, are not alone — that there is an Other — with full access to our individual consciousnesses and histories, which even we as human beings do not have because of our tendency to both forget and lie to ourselves — is absolutely frightening.

Wish as we might, there is no oblivion; there is no forgetting. Everything is, everything that was continues to be.

There are, however, doors that click shut behind us.

To me that’s the sound of mercy, which is not the same as forgetting. Isn’t it both more valuable and more terrifying to be fully known, to be actually seen — everything we are, everything we’ve done, all the horrible things we’ve thought and imagined and planned, all of which together comprise Us As Ourselves, not loosely-connected diapsalmata, not generic “individuals,” but actual Individuals — and yet still be welcomed with love?

Leave a Comment