What Keeps Us Going

Don’t talk unless you can improve the silence. —Jorge-Luis Borges

When I was a young man Nietzsche was my constant companion, a thinker I could argue with, hold infinite conversations with if only to debate his almost oracle like utterances. But then there came a time when I could not read his works at all, as if old friends had suddenly become enemies – not so much because we’d parted ways in our thoughts, but because his conversations ended in nothing going nowhere. His oracular voice just seemed absurd and repetitive to the point that none of his thoughts cohered anymore. Even now when I pick up one of his works (and, I’ve tried to reread him of late!) I fail at holding a conversation for more than a few minutes.

With certain other writers I’ve never had that issue. I’ve been of late rereading Jorge-Luis Borges’s fictions and non-fictions and poetry, along with his various conversations with friends over the years, and he above all authors is still with me as if his voice and utterance and conversational tone were my own. If there is something to Bloom’s theories of influence (and I believe there is!) it’s this staying power of certain authors to help one to continue a lifetime’s conversation. This inner dialogue (as old as Socrates and Plato) is at the heart of every writer’s and reader’s life. We all have those voices that seem to come and go like unwanted guests who prod us, cajole us, and awaken in us that need to talk and listen. I’ve only ever had a handful of those beings in my life and mind: E.M. Cioran, Jorge-Luis Borges, J.G. Ballard, Samuel Beckett, Thomas Ligotti and a few others that return time and again like old friends to occupy a few moments of my day in an endless or infinite conversation. Maybe that’s what keeps us going…

2 thoughts on “What Keeps Us Going

  1. I love how you express your experience in reading as a conversation. It brings my thoughts to you having a thought upon each word that you read within a book. I’ve never been much of a book person – there’s a story behind that, but I shall save it. However, I do love excellent quotes … those are to me what writers are to you. “Don’t talk unless you can improve the silence” is profound. Perhaps Nietzsche no longer served you. There’s a theory that we each have many soulmates, each with a specific purpose and time in our lives (e.g. the person who pulled you back from crossing the street while an unseen car was coming, a cat or dog with a specific personality that was exactly what you needed during their lifetime). Perhaps Nietzsche was a bit of a soulmate of yours – someone you needed in a time and place of your life that you grew out of? In closing – I absolutely love that quote by Jorge-Luis Borges!

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