Music Box by Jorge Luis Borges: Reading and Meditation

May 6, 2020  • Executive Leadership Seminars Department

download reading
Music Box, by Jorge Luis Borges (Translated by Tony Barnstone)

For decades, psychologists have studied the brain’s linkages between sights, sounds, and smells to our memory. Studies have found that the same part of the brain that’s in charge of processing our senses is also responsible for storing emotional memories. For me, music has always had an emotionally nostalgic pull. Jim Croce, the Eagles, and James Taylor have a strange way of transporting me back to my 5-year-old self in the backseat of the car on a family roadtrip. Neil Young and Billy Joel pull my heartstrings as they evoke memories of my first heartbreak. For some, smell may have the same effect – the smell of a campfire, freshly sharpened pencils, or spices from a childhood recipe can suddenly spark emotions or experiences that have been lost for years. Our emotional memories encapsulated in our senses act like a golden music box, freezing our emotions in time. Our senses are a yesterday come from the past.

Translator Tony Barnstone writes of Borges’ poem, “Of course, we can’t keep time in a box; time has a box prepared for us.” Borges presents a beautiful image of music bleeding away into time if not captured in a golden music box. When you experience the linkages between sense and memory, what do you find? What points in time do you revisit? How can you capture yourself in this moment as you are, and as you want to be? 

Brianna Curran, Washington,  DC

Wellsprings of Living and Leading
April 15, 2020 •