Give Humanity A Chance To Live

jorge-luis-borges Give humanity a chance to liveThe 20th-century Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote this story in 1984, while visiting Izumo in Shimane Prefecture in Japan.

Give humanity a chance to live

One autumn, one of the autumns of time, the Shinto divinities gathered, not for the first time, at Izumo. They are said to have numbered eight million. Being a shy man I would have felt a bit lost among so many. In any case, it is not convenient to deal in inconceivable numbers. Let us say there were eight, since eight is a good omen in these islands.

Taisha-6. Give humanity a chance to live.

They were downcast, but did not show it: the visages of divinities are undecipherable kanji. They seated themselves in a circle on the green crest of a hill. They had been observing mankind from their firmament or from a stone or from a snowflake. One of the divinities spoke:

Many days, or centuries, ago, we gathered here to create Japan and the world. The fishes, the seas, the seven colors of the rainbow, the generations of plants and animals have all worked out well. So that men should not be burdened with too many things, we gave them succession, issue, the plural day and the singular night. We also bestowed on them the gift of experimenting with certain variations. The bee continues repeating beehives. But man has imagined devices: the plow, the key, the kaleidoscope. He also imagined the sword and the art of war. He has just imagined an invisible weapon which could put an end to history. Before this senseless deed is done, let us wipe out men.

They remained pensive. Without haste another divinity spoke:

It’s true. They have thought up that atrocity, but there is also this something quite different, which fits in the space encompassed by seventeen syllables.

The divinity intoned them. They were in an unknown language, and I could not understand them.

The leading divinity delivered a judgment:

Let men survive.

Thus, because of a haiku, the human race was saved.

I don’t know if this story is true. I don’t even know if I want it to be true. What I want to know is the haiku that saved humanity. Borges used the word “archetype” frequently in the book in which this story appeared, Atlas. I therefore believe that the haiku intoned by the intercessory divinity was the archetypal haiku, the form from which all haikus sprung.

The New Message from God teaches that while humanity is a reckless, adolescent, destructive race, it shows a certain promise in the greater scheme of things. Therefore, God is speaking to humanity again, that it might successfully face its present and future challenges. Is success assured? No. It depends on our response. It is as if the leading divinity delivered a judgment, “Give humanity a chance to live.” (I don’t want to say “a fighting chance.”)

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