“Death is the essence of life. Life is an approaching death”, said Jorge Luis Borges. The Argentine writer who marked twentieth-century literature had deep philosophical concerns that permeated many of his works. He made precise references to Plato, Nietzsche, Berkeley, Hume and Schopenhauer, but he also felt a great attraction for Buddhist philosophy.
As a result of this mixture of Western and Eastern philosophies, he developed an eclectic and unique point of view that allowed him to draw the complexity of our mental universe in words. At 120 years of his birth, nothing better than remembering some of the best quotes of Jorge Luis Borges about life, phrases that lead to empowerment and are an ode to authenticity.
Quotes of Jorge Luis Borges about life, freedom and authenticity
1. I don’t speak of vengeances or forgiveness, forgetting is the only revenge and the only forgiveness
Great reader of philosophy, Jorge Luis Borges is likely to have read the great Stoics such as Epictetus and Seneca, who taught how to replay back when someone insults you and claimed that the best revenge is not to be like the person who hurt us. Smart man, he also knew that feeding hatred and resentment is like drinking poison waiting for the other to suffer. That is why he was convinced that the best is to forget and turn the page. Only then will we really free ourselves from the influence of the person who harmed us.
2. Let each one buildt heir own cathedral. Why live from alien and ancient works of art?
This quote from Borges is a wake-up call for individual conscience, an alert for each person to build their own faith and shape their beliefs. The writer repeatedly distanced himself from Catholicism because he considered it to be a dogmatic religion. His alternative? Seeking the truth within us, which consists of asking ourselves questions and seeking the answers with our own tools, not complying with the pre-established answers whose sole purpose is to drug the mind and encourage idiocy.
3. Plant your own gardens and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers
With this phrase, Borges emphasizes the need to assume a proactive role in our lives, not to become mere spectators, while others – understood as the closest people or society – make decisions in our place. We must make sure to cultivate our “ego” or it will end up becoming a wasteland, condemning us to a deep inner emptiness that gives way to the worst kind of loneliness, as Seneca said: “Loneliness is not being alone, but being empty”.
4. You have to be careful when choosing enemies because you end up looking like them
That we end up looking like our friends is not a secret, but Borges warns us that we could also end up looking like our enemies, adopting precisely those characteristics and behaviors we mostly detest. When we begin to think that everything is permitted, and we are tempted to respond in the same way, with the same offenses we suffered and returning the blow with the same intensity, we end up internalizing what we initially repudiated. That is why we must be very cautious when responding to grievances.
5. Doubt is one of the names of intelligence
Intelligence is not synonymous with certainties. A person full of certainties closes himself to learning and condemns himself to immobility. That is why Borges encourages us to doubt – of everything and everyone – of the absolute certainties, of the things we take for granted and of the beliefs that have been transmitted to us. He is not the only one, Aristotle had also said that “The ignorant affirms; the wise doubt and reflect” and that “doubt is the beginning of wisdom”. Asking ourselves the “why?” of things is the magic key that opens the doors of inner freedom.
6. I have committed the worst of sins that a man can commit. I have not been happy
Borges also said that “Happiness justifies itself”, is an end in itself, it is not necessary to look for excuses for searching what makes us happy. Because at the end of the road, it is likely that the only thing we’ll regret is not having lived more following our own rules, enjoying what made us really happy.
7. The heresies we should fear are those that can be confused with orthodoxy
Borges was an “insurgent writer” who mutinied against the rules of his time that determined how it should be written, so it is not strange that he was terrified by orthodoxy, which considered a straitjacket. He was not the only one, Mark Twain also said: “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).” In life, if we want to find our authentic “ego”, the one that usually hides between layers of social commandments, we need to dare to make mistakes, to challenge the rules and look for new paths.