What We Study When We Become El Aleph
I began with “The Aleph” by Borges. In my mind the story of my friend coming to the lecture at his school early to get a glimpse of his master (sponsored by the Spanish department); there is Borges standing in the hallway. By himself! My friend spending that precious alone time with the Master, Borges wasn’t yet well known around here anyway, must have been mid Sixties Borges about the same born in 1899. But I didn’t tell that story I thought it.
It and discipleship. Thinking of my friend stealing over to the I Am The Rich Man Who Donated Building and finding his mentor his teacher his hero his inspiration standing alone in front of a bulletin board he couldn’t read in a lonesome hallway. I will be your student, you will be my teacher. Who are you? I am nobody, you have been everything to me.
Now how it has filled me up through my life to have mentors teachers to be a disciple to choose correctly rarely practically never conventionally who are these teachers who have stuck their hands into my soft tissues my soul and rearranged everything. Most of them deliriously off script working another scenario. They are generally hacking their way through the densest foliage with nothing but a word scythe or a melody that floats teaching humility and patience always. In spite of themselves. They know who they are. I’ve told them.
The sense that Borges was enchanted with Jewish mythos, particularly the Kabbalah, sensing that somewhere in his background there were Jews. His father growing up in an English speaking home, Borges at home roaming through a dozen cultures. Sharing the Prix International in 1961 with Beckett, and in 1971 winning the Jerusalem Prize, we have claimed him thanks to Kafka. Always pissed that he didn’t win the Nobel and letting people know it.
We didn’t read the whole story (“The Aleph”) though the whole story is maybe five pages and Borges’s longest story is what? Fifteen pages? We began with the beginning and the end. I told the story of the story and a little about Borges, then handed out the two epigraphs, one from Hamlet one from Leibniz:
O God! I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a King of infinite space…
Hamlet, II, 2
But they will teach us that Eternity is the Standing still of the Present Time, a Nunc-stans (as the schools call it); which neither they, nor any else understand, no more than they would a Hic-stans for an Infinite greatness of Place.
Leviathan, IV, 46
The full Hamlet citation something like this:
To me [Denmark] is a prison.
Why then your ambition makes it one. ‘Tis too narrow
for your mind.
O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a
king of infinite space—were it not that I have bad dreams.
Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very
substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.
The sense that Hamlet understood his limitation is not in space it’s in emotion or limitation of self, his Denmark is a state of mind, inside a nutshell could be a kingdom.
And the quote from Leibniz, nunc stans the everlasting Now of Thomas Aquinas and the hic stans the everlasting place, the notion that every moment opens onto eternity and every place All Place.
In the story, Borges loads these ideas into the Aleph which is hidden in the basement among some canvas sacks, an inch in diameter, the aleph in the cellar of a second rate Argentine poet who the narrator thinks is mad. Borges, a character in his own fiction, goes to see it. This, from the postscript at the end of the story:
For the Kabbala, the letter stands for the En Soph, the pure and boundless godhead; it is also said that it takes the shape of a man pointing to both heaven and earth, in order to show that the lower world is the map and mirror of the higher;
In the Sefer Bahir, the aleph precedes all the other letters. Borges makes the link to ein sof from aleph, aleph is the first letter of ein soph and ein soph is that highest potentiality of G*dliness that precedes, as it were, the sefirotic system, ein sof “without end.” We discussed how Hebrew is the least snooty of languages, loves to embody the noblest notions in the simplest language, here a good example: infinity as without end.
The idea that all depictions of the intra-Divine is radical, the language itself of the constituent energies generally given with a disclaimer, a nod, a kivyachol or an expression such as as it were or as if you could say or so to speak acknowledging that once you enter into the interior of G*dliness, so to speak, language loses all sense of the literal and whatever you say is superfluous — as if you could say, as it were — so it goes. Enter there and leave your language elsewhere. And the added irony: You have entered and your language enters with you; let me now release it from substance and give it over entirely to nuance. As if you could say.
From Borges I came to think of the aleph this way:
it is also said that it [the aleph] takes the shape of a man pointing to both heaven and earth, in order to show that the lower world is the map and mirror of the higher;
From there we went to the meditation on the aleph in both form and content. We looked at the aleph meditation, we exploded the aleph and examined the vuv – the holy and the loftiest of conjunctions – and in its form the connection between heaven and earth, Borges “pointing to both heaven and earth” in his sense of in the particular, the All, in the Now the eternal, through the here Everywhere. Nunc-stans and Hic-stans.
We of course became alephs, all of us.
It is Borges that led me to the Aleph meditation. After the Aleph meditation, we turned to the similar notion in the Sefat Emet’s version of the three-fold blessing for the purposes of this piece jump to shleimut, the third fold, shalom shleimut the sense that in the particular the wild ride to the universal, the one to the many, the particular to the Whole; the inner point which is shleimut which is shalom which is the monad from Leibniz that opens onto Everything which is Hamlet in his nutshell.
In the Sefas Emes version, he three fold blessing is given in the singular opening onto the whole, the individual as it opens onto the universal the universal always sheleimut, shalom, l’sem lekha shalom: to bring the blessing from the individual instance to the universal application, the conduit from the one to the many, wild ride that – to break through your skin and live in G*d.
The Sefas Emes connects blessing with wholeness with individuality; with blessing the power of the upper root descends on the lower root on the individual on the instance; the upper root the anchoring above – roots above.
The inner point of truth this is shleimut shalom, the inner is experienced as the universal. Wherever G*d dwells, there is blessing wherever there is blessing
there is shalom – can you dig that?
Peace is a vessel, it contains blessing. It is wildly internal.
I am you and You are me And we are all Together.
I love the partial the broken individual incomplete
the fragment the wounded
I love the separate because it integrates
and even if not –
it is whole.
I am stunned by this teaching every time I revisit it.
There is more but I cannot give it over. Right now.