Do you like super pretentious academic stuff about art? Read this essay! I finally finished it today and while much of it flew over my head, a couple of bits stuck:
As would-be creators, as poets, sometimes we find that the result of our best labors fills us with shame. One of Borges’s most celebrated texts, to which he gave the English title “Dreamtigers,” has Borges dreaming, and realizing that he is dreaming, and since in that state of semi-consciousness we are the masters of our dreams, he decides to dream up a tiger, a real tiger, in all its regal and savage glory. But even in dreams the dreamer cannot achieve his purpose. “The tiger appears,” Borges says, “but shriveled up, or rickety, or with impure variations of shape, or of an inadmissible size, or far too fleeting, or looking more like a dog or like a bird.”
This is such a great analogy, and it carries within it the core of the essay (I think): if we cannot even conjure up a perfect representation of some real-world thing in our dreams, how can we hope to do so with mere words? In a somewhat reduced way, I feel the same way about this blog: the actual posts never come out quite as scintillating as I imagined them: they hint at or reference ideas without capturing them in the clarity with which they once appeared in my head.
I also really like how he’s captured the devilish dream-conundrum of having apparent mastery only for it to turn out disappointing. I’ve discovered in numerous dreams that I can will myself the power of flight, only to find that it isn’t as fun as I hoped: more of a sort of jerky drifting than superman style swooping. I was pleased to learn a couple of weekends ago that jumping out of a plane in reality is a lot more fun than flying in dreams. It feels like flying is supposed to feel.
The passage immediately preceding the one above is a glorious example of impenetrably academic prose:
Our creations are, at best, something that suggests an approximation to a copy of a blurry intuition of the real thing, itself an imperfect imitation of an ineffable archetype. This achievement is our unique and humble prerogative. The only art that is synonymous with reality (according to Dante and Borges and the Talmudic scholars) is that of God. Gazing upon the pathway to Eden, sculpted by God Himself in the Purgatory of the Proud, Dante says that “he saw not better than I saw, who saw the scenes in real life.” God’s reality and God’s representation of reality are identical. Ours are not.
Your challenge for the day is to work “…an imperfect imitation of an ineffable archetype” into a sentence. But anyway, I think what he gets at here and elsewhere in the essay is that if we are imperfect representations or imitations of God, then we must fail when we try to create something, because our capacity as creators will by definition be inferior to that of the one perfect creator.
Good, then. Time to go look at some funny pictures of cats.