Gretchen Rubin

A Mysterious Division of Animals: What’s Your Favorite Category?

A Mysterious Division of Animals: What’s Your Favorite Category?

Every Wednesday is List Day, or Tip Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday: time for something completely different. This is a list that appears in an essay by Jorge Luis Borges, "The Analytical Language of John Wilkins," in Borges: Selected Non-Fictions.

I have no idea why I love this passage so much, but I do.

These ambiguities, redundancies and deficiencies recall those attributed by Dr. Franz Kuhn attributes to a certain Chinese encyclopedia entitled Heavenly Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge. In its distant pages it is written that animals are divided into:

 

(a) those belonging to the emperor;

(b) embalmed ones;

(c) those that are trained;

(d) suckling pigs;

(e) mermaids;

(f) fabulous ones;

(g) stray dogs;

(h) those that are included in this classification;

(i) those that tremble as if they were mad;

(j) innumerable ones;

(k) those drawn with a very fine camel's-hair brush;

(l) etcetera;

(m) those that have just broken the watcher pitcher;

(n) those that at a distance resemble flies.

How I love this list. My favorite: "those that are included in this classification." Also "mermaids." What do you think...do you find this list thought-provoking, intriguing, or nonsensical?

Thinking about this passage and this list is making me want to go re-read Borges. Where's my copy of Labyrinths?

 

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