George F


The concept of an “aleph” is very strange and is difficult to wrap one’s mind around. Alephs are, to the best of my knowledge, a letter in the Hebrew alphabet. However, in Borges’ story they are a place where every part of the world exists at the same time, and can be observed from all possible perspectives. In my opinion, the “aleph” is a metaphor for a single person’s mind. Within the mind exists a reality created from memory. In a very small place, a virtually infinite number of places, thoughts, ideas, and people can be present. Borges, through this short story, suggests that reality is perhaps not as concrete as one might suppose and that it is in fact merely a conflation of memories, fueled by language (which is inherently subjective).

Borges, in this philosophical story, chooses for a character a man who tries to create the perfect person through dreaming. This man begins to think of his project as his son, as the person becomes more and more real. Finally, the reader learns that the man is in fact the dream of someone else. This contrast of parallel worlds, dreams within dreams, what is “real” vs. what is “fantasy,” challenges the potentially false senses of security we all harbor, sure that our existence is the normal one and that all others must be fictitious. It does not answer the question of “who am I?” very well, rather, it expands it even further to include our universe and plane of existence, never mind our personalities. Could we be someone else’s dream? Are the people in our dreams leading lives in alternate universes just as I am? Could we be multiple selves across the various planes of existence? All of these questions and a myriad more arise in this thought-provoking tale.

This story is about an everyday, average and ordinary person who also happens to be in search of a strange world called Tlon. The power and effect of common language is displayed, that words and thoughts and memories actually create seperate worlds. This idea coincides with Rorty, in that language really creates truth rather than describing it. The reading for today questions the concept of “reality” through this suggestion–which world is more real? Who can say which is the odd one and which is the right one? Existence can neither be proven nor disproved. The reader is pulled from the comfort of ordinary life and forced to question the core of his beliefs, concerning logic, position, time, and all that is normally taken for granted.

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