In the Garden of Forking Paths

librarian

The Appendix, Appendixed

How do we order what we’ve learned of the world?

In 1941, Borges imagined a “Library of Babel” that contained every book that could possibly exist: histories of the future, “autobiographies of archangels,” lost gnostic gospels, “the treatise Bede could have written (but did not)” even “the true story of your death.” And dwarfing all of these works, Borges envisioned a universe-worth of endless nonsense, jumbled texts without coherence. A book that repeats the letters M C and V over and over. A book of utter gibberish surrounding one phrase at its center: “O Time thy pyramids.”

Although the library initially seems to be a blessing to humankind, it breeds violence and madness: “thousands of greedy individuals abandoned their sweet native hexagons,” writes Borges. “These pilgrims squabbled in the narrow corridors, muttered dark imprecations, strangled one another on the divine staircases, threw deceiving volumes down ventilation shafts.”

The problem was this: although, somewhere in the endless branching hexagons of books there existed a “faithful catalog of the Library,” no one knew its location. For Borges the librarian, the problem wasn’t too many books, or too large an accumulation of data, but not having a good index.

Read more at The Appendix. 
(Praise from AHA Today).
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