The Garden of Forking Paths

greenmaze branching narrative

Just this past week, I was teaching the story “The Garden of Forking Paths” by Jorge Luis Borges  to my university class on Modernity in Literature.  It’s a wonderful story  – a spy story wrapped around a meditation on time.   One of the main characters says this about time:

“…In contrast to Newton and

Schopenhauer, your ancestor did not believe in a uniform, absolute time. He

believed in an infinite series of times, in a growing, dizzying net of divergent,

convergent and parallel times. This network of times which approached one

another, forked, broke off, or were unaware of one another for centuries,

embraces all possibilities of time. We do not exist in the majority of these

times; in some you exist, and not I; in others I, and not you; in others, both

of us. In the present one, which a favorable fate has granted me, you have

arrived at my house; in another, while crossing the garden, you found me

dead; in still another, I utter these same words, but I am a mistake, a ghost.”


garden of forking paths 1

To me, this applies to the decision points of my life.  At age 67, I can look back and see them.  At age 18, I decided to go to College A, in a town far from home. Had I decided to go to College B, in my home town, my whole life would be different. I would have probably married the fellow I was dating at home, had children, had lived in my home town all my life, and so on.

If I follow Borges’ philosophy, on another parallel level , I AM doing just that.

I could go on and on , through the many decision points of my life, and imagine my life as it is lived on those other levels.  It becomes dizzying!


Borges has another one of his main characters leave us with this bequest:





<a href="">The Road Less Traveled</a>


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