The Library of Discarded Ideas

One day, I took a trip to the Jorge Luis Borges Library of Babel that you can reach by taking the vein of highway you find only when you take a wrong turn at the exact exit where you will spend at least 45 minutes finding the right way back to reality and your destination.

In the Library, I hoped, among the fractal hexagonal infinities a series of ideas I had thought of, and then discarded. For you see, in the JLB Library of Babel are all the ideas I had thrown into the discard pile of my consciousness. I had thought them too trite, too simplistic, too childish to plant into the under reaches of my grey matter, and so had supposed that, instead of giving them an opportunity to prove themself, I would simply throw them away.

Now, in my beat-up discard pile of a car – a gremlin displaced in time that had scratches and dents, and a window that was simply a trashbag – I found I had taken a wrong turn on the wrong turn to the Library of Babel and ended up in a long field of wheat where stood a small, infinitely dense, block of black.

Outside this block of black in a field of amber grain stood an aged, wizened man. He was portly and blind and for a moment I thought that it was simply Jorge Luis Borges himself. My Spanish isn’t up to par yet, so I freaked out at that possibility.

Having found myself lost, though, and looking for some help. I spoke up.

“Excuse me, I’ve taken a wrong turn off a wrong turn. You know the way?”

“What is it you seek out?” He said, sounding like molasses and the aged sweet tang of bourbon.

“I’m looking for the branch of the Library of Babel where I can find an idea I threw away in a fit of pique.”

“There is no such aisle in the Library”

“Why not. Isn’t it infinite?”

“Those ideas which are so cruelly thrown by the wayside are sent to another, darker place.” He pulled his cane and tapped against the infinitely dark and black cube.

“What is it?”

“The Library of Discarded Ideas.”

“Why would another library exist for ideas stillborn?”

“You have answered your own question.”

“I don’t like these riddles.”

The man fiddled with an enormous set of keys.

“Did you love this idea?” He asked.

“Only when I realized that I threw it away,” I said, feeling a bit abashed.

“Ah, so you are not content to sit with an idea for long?”

“That isn’t true. This idea simply had no potential.”

“How long ago did you discard this idea.”

He stood and turned his back to me, and I found it insulting, I must say. The sky turned mauve and ochre and stars winked out as the black box sprouted a door. I looked at him.

“Before we go in, I must ask you. You are willing to work with this idea once you are reunited with it?”

“I absolutely must. It is a genius idea, I had simply not seen its potential.”

He nodded as if he’d heard that story before and I followed him in.

The air stank of pitch and there were lamentations as of the divine comedy. It was a sad, black place, and the man did not proffer a light. All I felt was a delirious cold.

I felt among me, the loose ends of ideas. It is impossible to describe what an idea feels like. It has no geometry of its own, it simply floats in ether and the contours of its existence are insubstantial.

As we went deeper, my sense of time vanished as well. I became acutely aware that I didn’t know whether we moved or not. I saw ideas that must have come from around the world. I could hear snatches of languages I did not speak; I could see the vestiges of beautiful vistas that would never be; I saw a woman I knew. I stopped.

“I think this is my idea.”

“It is not. Your ideas are deep inside this abyss.”

“But why would we go so far in.”

“You did not give it a chance to sprout branches.”

“But I at least thought it through now. Shouldn’t it return to me?”

“The Library of Discarded Ideas is, unlike Babel, a moral entity. It does not appreciate those who do not love their work.”

“But it would have been imperfect.”

“Is anything in this world truly perfect?”

The man was all around me and his voice was sinister and strange. We descended deeper into the blackness and the images around me became more vivid. More strange and less hospitable. Wind buffeted me and I saw the early sketches of famous works of literature. I saw a circular ruin and kings, and the world entire.

“These ideas have come to be.”

“They found their way back to their masters.”

“What is an idea anyway?”

“A shame you should not understand now that we have gone deep into this space.”

“This space is physically impossible. We have been walking for hours!”

And we had. In the darkness, amongst the chaotic reveries of countless peoples, we had been walking for hours. I was hungry and irritated and desperately wanted my idea back so I could begin work on my masterwork. The thing I would pore careful hours into until it shone so bright that the world would not ignore it.

I heard the man tut-tut, and laugh a deep raspy biting thing.

Time itself ceased and all I became aware of was the motion of my feet. I walked, and walked, and walked, regretting the effort I had expended for an idea I had thrown away. Maybe it wasn’t as good as I had thought. Maybe I simply had thought it was good because it looked nice one day.

I wanted to box this old man if I could find him. I wanted to wring his neck for making me walk infinitely through the good ideas of others. I was losing my mind. Nothing was worth this. Nothing. Not even all the good ideas I could steal.

“When is this going to end? I’m losing my mind.”

“It ends when it ends.”

We walked, forever, it seemed. I lost my mind and experienced worlds. Nothing was worth this, not even the best idea in the world. I would reject it and would say so. I would reject this whole endeavor as a wash before going home to weep into my journal once more.

Abruptly, the light came on. And we stood at a shelf. The old man was no different. He pointed to a slimline of paper. Not quite a book – for unfleshed ideas are not whole, and not subject to infinity – and he made me take it in hand.

“Read the idea, and tell me if you still want it.”

I looked at the idea, all this work, and this discarded idea wasn’t even good. I don’t know what I was thinking. I had come all the way here and it was just an average idea. At best. It would not grow for others. It would never be beautiful. It would never be…

I laughed, to myself, for a long while.

“It’s a good idea. May I have it back?”

The man smiled an enigmatic lopsided grin.

“It isn’t finished, though?”

“No.”

“It is not your best work, though?”

“Certainly not…”

“But…?”

“It’s something. And if I don’t start somewhere, I’ll never get anywhere.”

The man nodded.

“Thank you for visiting the Library of Discarded Ideas. I do hope you enjoyed your stay. The exit is on the right.”

I looked and saw the gleaming exit sign. I exited the creaky door and saw that it was the hour in the evening when the stars begin to come out.

For a moment, I felt like Dante, and simply stood content, watching the stars in the sky glimmer imperfectly.

The End.

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