Make-up post: Borges’ Aleph revisited, Internet in hand

Borges’ Aleph is a point in space—physical space—in which all things exist. All things. What exactly does that mean? Is it a space of all events (thus all moments, every point of time) or all points of space within one, single point of space? Daneri describes it as, “the only place on earth where all places are—seen from every angle, each standing clear, without any confusion or blending.” Daneri categorizes it as a point of all perspectives, “seen,” though distinct, as they are not painted into one whole landscape, but separated and individualized.

Borges uses the caricature that Daneri is as a futile servant to the idea of the Aleph. Daneri’s poetry is the vain scholar’s attempt to somehow capture the Aleph with words. It’s completely absurd and Borges sculpts Daneri into a satirical play on the scholar—Jesus, an encyclopedic epic poem capturing all of mankind?? Really??? Borges always likes to take a play on the academic, mocking himself, too, but the case of the Aleph goes far beyond social commentary. The Aleph, itself, is an impossible place of understanding, a Zen-like black hole with complete comprehension of each action and reaction and moment and instance and consequence and coincidence. A marvelous and mystical idea. But Daneri has this dramatic and deranged belief that he can capture the Aleph, the all-knowing, all-seeing, into words. Madness.

The same riddle keeps introducing itself in the digital fiction we’ve evaluated, which I am seeing more and more as a desperate struggle to find a new way of seeing. (Poor Daneri’s Aleph is buried with the construction of a new business, a temporary gift of enlightenment drowned with the demands of man: shelter, food, company. Borges’ narrator explains, “Our minds are porous and forgetfulness seeps in.” The Aleph is a sort of epiphany of understanding, where one no longer perceives through themselves, but can witness all outside of that perception— and how short it is! [It is unnatural and unbelievable and maybe it happened but we don’t remember; we continue to recognize the idea of its existence.] Man is inevitably condemned to his limited consciousness.) There are only so many heroes and lovers and scoundrels and fools who can be constructed, only so many stories to be told, I suppose. Post-Modernism was among the first methods of getting beyond the story to form, to structure, to perspective. Man’s consciousness had expanded beyond the self: art went beyond seeing oneself more distinctly or in a certain way, and toward seeing the whole.

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So our idea of the story has shifted over time from the plot of the story to how the story is told and how it is received: an attempt to cut off personal experience and perceive outside of ourselves in both the reading and writing of texts.

Digital media, especially the fiction we have indulged in, has introduced a new point of perspective that attempts to reinvent this perspective. First of all, a computer is a point in space that contains many things. It is not a static piece of paper with a static composition; this allows a certain manipulation, an identity-less window to peer through.

There were a few different takes on this in the Dreaming Methods pieces we reviewed. Dreams is very simply reading an unknown man’s journal: we don’t know who he is, only he as a text and, even more interestingly, as a reflection of his dreams. Very sharp. Floppy similarly puts the reader in a point-of-view perspective, creating a realistic scene of opening up a floppy disk. This, though, allows the reader to retain their own identity because it creates a very common scenario—browsing computer files—that we, it is presumed, often partake. Miriam, though, does a tremendous job of killing both author and reader, straddling an intermediate place where we know nothing of the text’s origin and, through the digital presentation, pulling the reader in and encouraging one to experience events as the narrator (this is also done with the assistance of the induced hypnosis Josh discussed in his blog).

This is intertwined with both Barthes and Borges. The vacuum of experience in this sort of narrative and its consequential explosion and negation of perspective strives to draw the reader to an experience that is not experienced through themselves (ie. not through their own perspective, because they are dead), but solely within the text. Thus when we follow Luther’s story and sift through it is as he is, we are no longer perceiving through our own experience and especially no longer with the connotation of an author: the author is dead, the reader is dead, each story is a particle within the Aleph. More on this to come for my final project.

-Steven Whisler

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~ by PDG on April 17, 2010.

 
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