Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

library of babel - an idea that should have come to mind a while ago

skindeep's picture

it seems like a lot of people have been revisiting the library of babel, which seeing that its nearing the end of the semester makes sense i guess.

seeing that so many people were writing about it, made me briefly skim through it in my mind and i realized something. as i remember it one of the strongest reasons people seemed to be uncomfortable with the idea of such a place existing was because it would mean that no one could ever create anything new - because it had already been predestined to exist or already existed in another form somewhere in the stacks of this library.

but thats not true. because we would be creating new things. see, whether or not something exists, when we discover it, it always feels good. people have found multiple ways to solve math problems, but i remember finding an easier way to solve an equation in the sixth or seventh grade and still being ecstatic and very proud of myself. the same goes for someone who learns to think in a new way in class one day, or for a kid who finds a rock thats shaped like a turtle - none of them believe that they're the only people who have ever thought like that, or discovered something like it. but for them, its new, its fresh, its original and thats all that counts.

i guess sometimes the experience of something is as important if not more than the thing itself.




cwalker's picture

I personally really enjoy the

I personally really enjoy the idea of the Library of Babel, I do think that everything has already been created, that doesn't exactly mean that society knows about it in some concrete way, but it exist, somewhere, somehow. I do not think people really invent or create knew things, I strongly believe that people discover ideas and things that already exist. When people create new stories, they are playing with the original 24 plot lines, they are just mixing them in different ways. I do not think that the Library of Babel has each and every predetermined choice and option as it is likely to link with one another, but rather I think it gives us all the options that are available and then we have the agency to put them together as we see fit. While we might not have all the options, we do have the potential to use the options that are available to create something slightly more unique.

hlehman's picture

Enjoy the ride

 I like this idea of being content with the Library of Babel and being able to find new things that are already created. Last semester I took Introduction to Comparative Literature and we read and discussed the story of the Library of Babel as well. The first thing we did before actually talking about the story, however, was to compare the little drawings in the margins of our papers/ how we pictured the library. Each shape comprised of a complex geometrical combination of lines and everyone was frustrated in our inability to physically picture what the library looked like. I think that the reason we could not draw the Library of Babel is because the library is part of itself and part of the experience of the Library of Babel is that it is impossible to conceive it as a physical structure. 

My first impression after reading the story was similar to many people in class- uncomfortable with the idea that everything already exists, but after thinking about it more and reflecting on our conversations in class and online, my feelings are starting to change. I agree that the experience or process of something is just as important as the thing itself. I also think it is something that we often find difficult to appreciate or be content with, but if we can learn to take value in our journeys and see the Library of Babel in this light, life will be much easier to enjoy. 

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
13 + 4 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.