Jorge Luis Borges' Dream-Work

Hugo La Rosa By Hugo La Rosa, 15th Apr 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Essays

Do dreams have a reality we haven't accounted for? Are they true? Our lives, are they founded upon dreams and figments of our imaginations?

Jorge Luis Borges' Dream-work

Jorge Luis Borges’ Dream-work

In his short story “Las Ruinas Circulares” –The Circular Ruins–, Jorge Luis Borges implies that to dream is an act of power by which all things come into being, including the life of men.

One man, an ancient native from unknown lands, arrives at some circular ruins dedicated to a god of stone in the form of an amorphous animal figure. He prostates upon the steps which circulate around the figure; he seeks for some magical concordance in the universe, to devote himself to the difficult task of creating a man out of this awkward subterfuge: dreaming.

After many years, that could well be hundreds of years (anciently –it is said–, men used to live many centuries,) he succeeds at last. A certain obscure man made of dreams emerges to reality in a way only dreams can fathom; this man, with his cetrine complexion, blossoms from the air completely formed with only one fatal defect: fire would not harm him, because he is simply a man made from such phantasmagorical substances.

Once this man, the dream-work of another man, is thoroughly taught in the magical sciences, he is sent to officiate in another temple. Deserted of the presence of any living gods and of the honors of men, this other temple resembles the one of his dreamer, the only ancestor he knows.

One day, a sinister fire envelops the temple of this father dreamer, when he was about to perform his rituals to his stone god. He plans to flee to other places, but he vacillates, and decides to stay, because he thought his final hour had come. However, he soon finds out that fire does not harm him, because he is a phantom, a nothing.

A sudden realization came to him, that he was himself a dream, that somebody else, another man, was dreaming him to life.

Even though Borges had a negative view of existence, and at times he sounded nihilist, Borges was really a seeker, a kind of dark mystic on a trek to find out the meaning of existence. Nevertheless, in spite of his deep knowledge of mysticism, he remained a sceptic all his life. He found contradiction everywhere, and he never settled for anything higher than reason.

However, my purpose in pointing out this story stays with his ways of saying things, which is a celebration of the Spanish language. Even in English, the impact of his sentences reflect his questioning genius. Borges was an inconclusive man. He is the eternal seeker. It is the prototype of the man that never found his way; he remained his eyes lost, taking as obvious the wonders of life. He inhabited a wonderful labyrinthine library, whose books –I believe– dated from when most celebrated intellectuals were atheistic, and of Marxist and Leninist propaganda around the world. It was the time when countries like Russia or Cuba flourished against all odds; it was the time –and he saw it– that many people took arms to fight against what they called injustice.

Nevertheless, as Borges did, those fighting for justice were oblivious to the power of higher ideals; they chose their material belongings –or the right to them, at least– as the most potent signifier in their lives. They forgot God. They forgot them-selves. And even though they fought for great ideals, they had forsaken the greater in the exercise of their wills, the lofty ideals that ennoble men and women all over the earth.

Therefore, the question remains for us all, as it was asked by Pilate to Jesus: “What is Truth?”


Beliefs, Creation, Creationism, Dreams, God, Ideals, Idols, Imaginations, Materialism

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author avatar Hugo La Rosa
I am a US citizen living in New York who likes to write short stories and poems. I was born in Peru.

If you comment on one of my pages, I'll do the same on yours.

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author avatar Denise O
17th Apr 2011 (#)

I sure hope dreams are not what is going to come true, as I have the most awful, graphic and violent dreams most of the time. If I see it on TV, I will dream about it but, in a weird kind of way. Shoot, what is the truth, I guess we all have our own ideas of it all. Nice read, it has me thinking and that is always good. Thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar Hugo La Rosa
17th Apr 2011 (#)

Thank you Denise, perhaps all we can do is experience life the best way we are capable of. Thank you for your generous comment.

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