“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” – Jorge Luis Borges

Borges was a fortunate fellow as he worked in a library. Shall we infer that he was in paradise every single day.  Life is never that easy, and while reading Borges this evening (Collected Fictions, “In Praise of Darkness” and bits of “Aleph” to be exact) I would say that Borges thought life not paradise.

Paradise, though, seems to be tonight’s theme per se for lecture was about life after death. I sat there pondering what was being fed to me and was not certain what I was trying to consume agreed with this constitution. There is something distasteful about the statement that Adam and Eve were set up to fail because God loves, ergo, they had the freedom to disobey. Not that I have a God complex (far far from it), but I wish that analogy had been in my back pocket eons ago when a professional told me to stop testing people. Based on the information gleaned tonight from the cheap seats, my little tests are hard-wired from father himself (if you wish to follow that type of belief system).

I digress, today (well, actually it was yesterday) was Borges’s birthday. I wonder where he is today – do we think he is reading? How would he celebrate his birthday if in paradise. A paradise library certainly should be one that allows one to order up any book ever written and delivered by the author…perhaps with an option to sit before a fire with a fine beverage for a short Q & A. Perhaps, she sings, perhaps, perhaps

Paradise unfolded before me today. A friend and I visited the local art center for an installation by British artist Phyllida Barlow. Barlow designed “Scree Stage” for the Des Moines Art Center’s I.M Pei wing. I wish they allowed photographs. Barlow’s design was no small feat – the main sculpture is this amazing amalgamation of painted board, metal, sculpted poles and material to create a rather vast piece. My first thought:  it was a wave that started at the crest and then descended to meet you. It was easily twenty feet at the highest point (begging to be walked under), but this was not allowed per the guard. Sad, art like that NEEDS its audience to experience its energy from the inside – not just on the fringes.

Paradise, no matter what it is, is certainly to be experienced from the inside. So much of this life is experienced from the fringes. Digital lifestyles seem to encourage life as observation. It reminds me a bit of Edward Abbey’s beef with the automobile (to paraphrase) – no one was getting out of their GD tin can to actually experience the Canyon lands, just drive thru with sunglasses on (he was pretty angry – do believe he said GD) “Desert Solitaire” was the best damn required reading in college – it changed how I approach nature. That summer, I went to the mountains, got out of the GD car and hiked until altitude consumed me. Years later, hit the Canyon in full stride until her burnt sienna layers melded with my vision, sans sunglasses. 

I’ve yet to determine paradise – actually, there is more anxiety thinking about eternity than just to imagine not living…but, that is a post for another hour. What about you – are you like Borges, is your vision a library, or is it something equally beautiful… ~ a


This is not the installation, but it is a good representation of the shape. IMG_0942 (Photo credit: trevor.patt)

(and just for a bit of fun)

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  1. Well, so many great observations in this! Here’s one among many that I just loved: “A paradise library certainly should be one that allows one to order up any book ever written and delivered by the author…perhaps with an option to sit before a fire with a fine beverage for a short Q & A. Perhaps, she sings, perhaps, perhaps…” I suppose perhaps I love this because even getting any book I desire remains an impossibility. (Just as an example, I trotted over to our lovely little local library to order two “study scores” from interlibrary loan, and they weren’t to be found. This, even though Bard’s Conservatory of Music is a stone’s throw away. Still, I was probably saved by that. It would have taken me hours upon hours to try and listen to the music against the score. So, in the end, I don’t know that my vision is a library, but they feature in my dreams. It’s one of the key things that appealed to me so much about Susan Howe–those wild libraries she goes on about.

    • Sue ~ thanks for taking the time to entertain my post with your thoughts. I wanted to respond to your ‘impossibility’ – it may be, but then again, do you ever do the searching first? Not implying the librarian is not top-notch, but you may enjoy using WorldCat if not already using it. You can limit your search and save them – set up lists, etc, all for free…not to mention finding out who owns what around the globe. is an amazing tool for great minds such as yours. Cheers ~ a

  2. PS: I should just give up on including parentheticals in my comments, as I so often forget to close them. Is there something to read into that . . .


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