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  • Writer's pictureTheeda

New Moon in Taurus: Going Native

Updated: 6 days ago

Contempsis caros dum nos allat ille parentes (while loving us he despised his dear parents) - epitaph on the tomb of the barbarian Droctulft

Once again, I am inspired by a Borges short story. I'm admitting that I haven't yet made it through Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges, the renowned Argentinian writer. I've been reading it all year. One reason is because these days I have the attention span of a gnat (I'm working on that) but the other is because each of these stories is indeed labyrinthine. I have been pulled in to his irrealistic stories, with their twists and turns where you don't know what's real and what's a lie or exactly where things are going and you're surprised where they end up, has a peculiar resonance for me now.

Borges (1899 - 1986), who was an Argentinian of European descent, hated Nazis, respected Jews (he celebrated the outcome of the Six Day War), feuded with Peron. and thought indigenous people had no culture. I am engaging with his ideas at a similarly fraught time while Israel is attacking beleaguered Palestinians in Rafah enacting its own version of The Final Solution. During his life, Borges showed that he was capable, in a labyrinthine manner, of changing his mind and doubling back on his ideas. I wonder what he would think now.

The "Story of the Warrior and the Captive" is about identity and finding your tribe. In it, he draws the comparison between the barbarian Droctulft who was a high ranking general in the barbarian army but became so enamored of Rome that he switched sides and died fighting for the Romans and an unnamed Englishwoman who had been captured by the Mapuche (Araucanian) people and who completely embraced their culture. Borges says in this story that he learned of the unnamed Englishwoman from his own English grandmother who missed her home country and could not understand why this woman in similar circumstances would prefer the company of "savages".

The energy of this New Moon brings up the question of who we are in relationship to others. Are we surrounded by people who see us for who we really are? Do we have the courage to stand with the people who stand with us even if it means taking actions that others don't understand and go against everything we have been taught?

Borges could understand Droctulft's motivation. After all, Droctulft was a barbarian who fell in love with "civilization" and of course the "civilized" Romans treated him well and showed their appreciation and love for him in the words they inscribed on his tomb. But the Englishwoman going native? As noted above, Borges didn't think indigenous people had culture. They were a bunch of heathens. Why would she embrace that?

At this New Moon, we are being challenged to expand our ideas of what community is, what is looks like and who is capable of creating it. Much of our assumptions in society about people who don't live like us are based in our inability to not only see their humanity but our inability to see how they create strong, loving, stable bonds because it's not how we do it. We don't see how encampments of houseless people or how people who are incarcerated in prison or how people who live in public housing create supportive and loving communities. And because we don't see it, we don't have any problem with actions and policies which destroy that sense of community and further traumatize people who have little or nothing except each other.

At the end of the story, Borges' concedes at the end that maybe Droctulft's conversion and the Englishwoman's love for the indigenous people who took her in might be two sides of the same coin. He got so close but he didn't quite make it. This is how I feel about people who see anti-Semitism but just can't make themselves see, because they are completely caught up in the logic of extraction, how the Palestinians are rightfully defending themselves against a totally unwarranted invasion of their homeland. They are so close. But recognizing that would entail seeing the Palestinians as full human beings with culture and a right to exist on the land that they were occupying before European Jews declared that land empty and saw them as mere features of the landscape to be cut down and consumed like trees.

As we become more intertwined and interconnected in this time when our basic assumptions about everything are being undermined, let's take up the challenge to redefine our relationships with each other. Let's be open to finding connection in places where we didn't think it was possible. Let's be open to losing ourselves in order to find ourselves.

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