Monday, December 04, 2006

Borges v. BBC4

Just reread Borges' classic story Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius. It's been a while since I've read it, but it repays every re-reading. In the past I've been drawn by this idea of a parallel world, that's been created and can only be seen through a few scraps of writing about it; but this reading, its the end of the story that really got me - that it's the ideology of that world, the systemic certainty of that world, which makes people in this world start to take it on as their own mythology, their own language. Clearly it has resonance with the Nazis, but it's more than that, in the current day and age - you can look at it two ways; the "year zero" of the internet, the alternate reality of reality TV, where these people are our friends, our families, the weddings to which we're invited; and, much darker, I guess, the reliance on a partial "made up" text to guide our life. I'd not quite thought through the religious significance of that; but serendipitously, I was watching BBC4 tonight about the lost gospels; and how the gospels of Thomas, Peter, Philip and Mary Magdalene were excluded from the Bible. There's radicalism in these other testaments - the gnosticism of Thomas, a set of aphorisms which may be older than the ones we know; the idea that the man Jesus was inhabited by a spirit that then left him before he died on the cross; the separating of the vengeful God of the Old Testament from the New Testament Jesus. All of these things seem more plausible for our current age than the one's we've grown up with. Is it any more frightening than the idea that we can turn into the imaginary Tlon; that we can rely on this imaginary Bible? Fascinating stuff, and I'm still not tempted to read "Da Vinci Code." (Besides, I've got a lot more Borges to revisit.)

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