Though I can’t find it now, I have written before about the Argumentium Ornithologicum, an idea from Borges that in imagining a certain number of birds unknown to the imaginer, the only one who might know how many birds were visualized is God. This is an argument for God’s existence because the number is certain, yet unknown–whoever, or whatever, “knows” that number is God.

And yet the God that knows how many birds you imagined–even if you do not–is not necessarily the Christian God, except insofar as that God is frequently said to supply the lack that is produced by human experience. Lacan says God is a necessary consequence of language, that language is what gives human beings the capacity to imagine abstract quantities that far exceed their worldly counterparts. The distance between what can be held or apprehended and our imaginations is the lack that will always be part of the human experience. Language provides fuel for desire, because it imagines us arriving at a fulfillment which is not meaningfully possible except in a moment, if at all. It is often nearer to us when it is anticipated–who has not felt closer to some imagined good when standing on its threshold than when pressing it close against the skin?

In the book of John Mandeville he mentions a hill in the holy land on which four angels will stand and with four trumpts shall blow and announce the end of the world. This hill is identified as Mount Tabor, but the hill St. John actually identifies in Revelations as fulfilling this purpose is Megiddo (which means “Armageddon” in the Greek language that St. John wrote). Undoubtedly Mandeville made a mistake (he does so frequently), or relied on a corrupted source. But I prefer to imagine that the answer is uncertain, somewhere between the two, or perhaps on another hill not mentioned in either of the two sources. One of these hills, the two known, or a third, unknown, must be the hill in which the angels must appear. But the true answer is (for now) known only to God.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s