One thousand men stand in line waiting for a job to paint picture postcards. This is a story that I am making up, but it has to be true. Look at how terrible the Depression was. Think of how desperate people were to get jobs. It's really easy to find beautiful postcards of flamingos in Florida in 1932 and the Carlyle Hotel in 1938. They are works of genius. The flamingo burns with a red hot flame. Would you go to the Carlyle Hotel? I would go to the Carlyle Hotel for it is stunning! There's an alligator in sunny Florida. You can practically touch him with your fingers but don't! I would love to own them. I would love to own them all. I would love to learn how to paint this familiar flamingo pink and vibrant but how can that happen? I tell you: one thousand men stand in line waiting for a job. What is the job? The job is to paint picture postcards of the world just like the one that you would like to be holding right now. An alligator suns himself on a rock in the Everglades. The Carlyle is fancy. What are you waiting for? You must hurry. One thousand men stand in line to paint postcards. Flamingos are burning and the flame is red hot.
Borges says: MIDDLEMARCH!
I didn't have time to read the whole interview and so I was happy to think that this was just the way he liked to start sentences, like some people who say "Uh, well" or "Hmmm." Borges was blind, I mean, I am not telling you anything you don't already know here, but still, I had another idea, that people who are blind just have to occasionally make a big statement, like MIDDLEMARCH!, so they can sort of claim the territory of the conversation and people will stop and listen. It is really a bold move when you think about it, because people who have read Middlemarch realize what an extraordinary universe it is, and how George Eliot has produced a world in which the whole universe is one living thing, and how there is a kinship between things that seem far off and by the end are all interwoven, and so, once you have startled people by saying MIDDLEMARCH! you have really raised the stakes on the tenor of the conversation, because people automatically are thinking about a world in which there is a kinship between things that seem far off and by the end are all interwoven, which was Borges' point, really, anyway because I read the rest of the article interview later that day and this is exactly what he said:
INTERVIEWER: What do you think there is?
BORGES: (annoyed) I think there is a kinship between things.
It was silly to think that Borges liked to start off sentences like this: MIDDLEMARCH!. Nobody would want to do that. He likes to say things like "Uh, well" or "Hmmm." After all, Borges was just like us. He wears a grey suit and has a cane and squints. People, after all, are normal for the most part. And connected. Borges is connected, for example, to you and me, to this thing here. There is a kinship between things that seem far off, and perhaps will be for a long time, but in the end, all things are interwoven. Even, for example, this:
A celibate, like the fly in the heart of an apple, dwells in a perpetual sweetness, but sits alone, and is confined and dies in singularity.
Jeremy Taylor was trying to make a point. And in this point, he put a celibate in an apple to make a point. The point was, apples are delicious and sweet. He said, Let me make this point. Where was I? Let's see, yes, apples and delicious and sweet, and there are celibates. So Jeremy Taylor talked about celibates, although I am not sure that I really understood his point. He said: so apples are nice, but imagine a celibate inside one. Well, yes it is sweet. Yes, it is delicious. But wouldn't he be lonely? Someone raises their hand in the audience. Someone says something about celibates are lonely people already and apples are sweet so it could be worse. Jeremy Taylor says, Yes, yes, it could be worse, but you're missing the point. That poor celibate, alone in the middle of that apple. That's bad enough, thank you. In the middle of that sweetness, someone says. Yes, Jeremy Taylor says, in the middle, and it's awfully good, but Goddam it man, where is he, I mean, when you really examine it? In the middle of something wonderful, the guy in the back row says, and he makes a good point. OK, OK, but the lack of air and friendship, says Jeremy Taylor. But the sweetness, like angels say, being inside, inside, so rare, so perfect. No, says Jeremy Taylor, it's a fuckin' miserable celibate, goddam it, in a stupid apple, it's dark, the angels smile and there is a slight fluttering sound and the feeling of politeness fills the air and reaches the heavens which are laughing with perfection. Someone in the back row raises his hand. I have one more question, please.
Ricky Garni is a graphic designer living in Carrboro, North Carolina. His latest work, January, is a sequel to his earlier work, December. Although it could be the other way around, with a lot of space in between.