“All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.” Jorge Luis Borges once asserted thus in one of the conversations he maintained during the final years of his life with the writer Roberto Alifano. These were later collected in a book overflowing with lucidity.

When this record was made, Borges had been blind for 30 years. This is evocative for two reasons. First, because blindness, since ancient times, has been related to an ability to see that which others do not (think of the many oracles in Greek and Latin literature). Secondly, because the writer had spent a lifetime nurturing his wisdom, in this brief passage he addressed some of the feelings and events we fear most in life: misfortune, shame, and humiliation.

A writer —and, I believe, generally all persons— must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely,” he said in a speech touched beautifully by a notion of destiny. For a creative person, it takes on an even stronger dimension. We know that Borges always considered artists, and more specifically, writers (bearers of a literary fate), as translators, or conduits of a universal wisdom which precedes them and which hopes to be embodied within a work of art. In other words, for Borges there is a great book (in which are found all those books already written and those yet to be written, too) which only some writers can access.

The idea that this great book, the book of books, is already written and that writers only come into the world to transcribe it, is present in many of Borges’ texts. So, from this perspective, misfortune is intuited as an expression of a wisdom which surpasses us, as if everything that was presented to us in the course of our lives, even the most unpleasant and frightening experiences, were made especially for us, such that we transcend them, and then grow through them.

 

 

 

Image: Public domain

“All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.” Jorge Luis Borges once asserted thus in one of the conversations he maintained during the final years of his life with the writer Roberto Alifano. These were later collected in a book overflowing with lucidity.

When this record was made, Borges had been blind for 30 years. This is evocative for two reasons. First, because blindness, since ancient times, has been related to an ability to see that which others do not (think of the many oracles in Greek and Latin literature). Secondly, because the writer had spent a lifetime nurturing his wisdom, in this brief passage he addressed some of the feelings and events we fear most in life: misfortune, shame, and humiliation.

A writer —and, I believe, generally all persons— must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely,” he said in a speech touched beautifully by a notion of destiny. For a creative person, it takes on an even stronger dimension. We know that Borges always considered artists, and more specifically, writers (bearers of a literary fate), as translators, or conduits of a universal wisdom which precedes them and which hopes to be embodied within a work of art. In other words, for Borges there is a great book (in which are found all those books already written and those yet to be written, too) which only some writers can access.

The idea that this great book, the book of books, is already written and that writers only come into the world to transcribe it, is present in many of Borges’ texts. So, from this perspective, misfortune is intuited as an expression of a wisdom which surpasses us, as if everything that was presented to us in the course of our lives, even the most unpleasant and frightening experiences, were made especially for us, such that we transcend them, and then grow through them.

 

 

 

Image: Public domain