Inferno I, 32
From the twilight of day till the twilight of evening, a leopard, in the last years of the thirteenth century, would see some wooden planks, some vertical iron bars, men and women who changed, a wall and perhaps a stone gutter filled with dry leaves. He did not know, could not know, that he longed for love and cruelty and the hot pleasure of tearing things to pieces and the wind carrying the scent of a deer, but something suffocated and rebelled within him and God spoke to him in a dream: “You live and will die in this prison so that a man I know of may see you a certain number of times and not forget you and place your figure and symbol in a poem which has its precise place in the scheme of the universe. You suffer captivity, but you will have given a word to the poem.” God, in the dream, illumined the animal’s brutishness and the animal understood these reasons and accepted his destiny, but, when he awoke, there was in him only an obscure resignation, a valorous ignorance, for the machinery of the world is much too complex for the simplicity of a beast.
Years later, Dante was dying in Ravenna, as unjustified and as lonely as any other man. In a dream, God declared to him the secret purpose of his life and work; Dante, in wonderment, knew at last who and what he was and blessed the bitterness of his life. Tradition relates that, upon waking, he felt that he had received and lost an infinite thing, something that he would not be able to recuperate or even glimpse, for the machinery of the world is much too complex for the simplicity of men.
Architect’s Notes:// These words exemplify the zen bliss of flash fiction – beautiful, succinct, powerful in purpose. Borges declaratively points out that poetry is the world’s way of expressing complexity, and, be we beast or man, the world must speak through us, in order to speak beyond us. It is we, the animal, whom must suffer the necessary modes of existence, for the benefit of the greater We, all for a motive we cannot grasp but in brief glimpses of illumination that slip away as dreams do in daylight. Our lives are not convenient, they are not free in any ultimate sense, but freedom is in knowing who we are and blessing the bitterness of our life before our deathbed. I found myself relating to the leopard for I always secretly wish for ‘love and cruelty and the hot pleasure of tearing things to pieces.’