Rain Is One Thing Which Undoubtedly Happens Only In The PastMonday, February 21, 2011
“Cierro los ojos y veo una bandada de pájaros. La visión dura un segundo o acaso menos; no sé cuántos pájaros vi. ¿Era definido o indefinido su número? El problema involucra el de la existencia de Dios. Si Dios existe, el número es definido, porque Dios sabe cuántos pájaros vi. Si Dios no existe, el número es indefinido, porque nadie pudo llevar la cuenta. En tal caso, vi menos de diez pájaros (digamos) y más de uno, pero no vi nueve, ocho, siete, seis, cinco, cuatro, tres o dos. Vi un número entre diez y uno, que no es nueve, ocho, siete, seis, cinco, etcétera. Ese número entero es inconcebible; ergo, Dios existe.”
Jorge Luís Borges, Argumentum ornithologicum.
“ I close my eyes and see a flock of birds. The vision is but for only a second, perhaps less; I don’t know how many birds I saw. Was it a defined or undefined number? The problem involves the existence of God. If God exists, the number is definite, because God knows how many birds I saw. If God does not exist, the number is indefinite, because nobody would be able to keep count. In that case I saw fewer that ten birds (let’s say) and more than one, but I did not see nine, eight, seven, five, four, three or two. I saw a number between ten and one, which is not nine, eight, seven, six, five, etc. That whole number is inconceivable; ergo God exists.”
Jorge Luís Borges, Argumentum ornithologicum
It is not mere chance that I cite the Borges poem from his 1960 El Hacedor. I cited the book in yesterday’s blog because of the special prologue to the book which is a dedication and a small essay on Leopoldo Lugones. I left the book on my desk.
This afternoon I had a phone call from a friend who asked me why I was on a nostalgia kick with all the pictures of myself as a young boy. I didn’t explain that I forgot my iPhone on Saturday and I would have snapped a picture of Rebecca at the movies to illustrate that Saturday’s blog instead of inserting the picture of myself with my grandmother. I had no choice. But my friend's question had me thinking. He told me he was busily fixing the grout in his shower as he hated taking tub baths.
I happen to adore tub baths, particularly nice hot ones. I told my friend that I have started and finished many novels in the tub. I did not tell him that I remember that sometime when I was 7 or 8 I took a Llanero Solitario (the Lone Ranger) comic book into the tub. I dropped it into the water and I cried with grief. My mother carefully placed a sheet of newspaper between the sodden pages and the comic book did survive for a complete reading.
I got myself into the tub accompanied by Borges’ El Hacedor and hit pay dirt within minutes. This book is perfect for bathtub fair. I read it from cover to cover in 40 minutes. I did run hot water to keep everything comfortable. While I have read it many times since I first bought it in Buenos Aires, during a visit in the late 80s, the story above is one that has been one of my favourites. But there is another that I wish I had remembered as I would have quoted from it to explain to my friend the reason for my nostalgia.
La Lluvia de Jorge Luis Borges
Bruscamente la tarde se ha aclarado
Porque ya cae la lluvia minuciosa.
Cae o cayó. La lluvia es una cosa
Que sin duda sucede en el pasado.
Quien la oye caer ha recobrado
El tiempo en que la suerte venturosa
Le reveló una flor llamada rosa
Y el curioso color del colorado.
Esta lluvia que ciega los cristales
Alegrará en perdidos arrabales
Las negras uvas de una parra en cierto
Patio que ya no existe. La mojada
Tarde me trae la voz, la voz deseada,
De mi padre que vuelve y que no ha muerto.
Rain By Jorge Luis Borges
The afternoon has brightened suddenly
Because it already rains minutely
Falling or fallen. Rain is one thing
Which undoubtedly happens only in the past.
Who hears it fall retrieves a recovered
Time that a venturesome luck
Revealed to him a flower by the name of rose
And the curious color of red.
This rain that clouds the windows
Will gladden in those lost suburbs
The black grapes of a vine in certain
Patio that is no more. The sodden
Afternoon brings me a much wanted voice, the desired voice,
Of my father who returns and who has not died.