This short story is Borges’s shortest and I highly recommend reading it; it’ll only take a minute or two. For those too lazy, the summary is that one king has his people construct a labyrinth, one so sophisticated that not even the smartest person can escape from it. Upon its completion, he traps another king in it. The trapped king eventually escapes after praying to God, gathers his army, and conquers the land of the first king, capturing the king in the process to bring him to said labyrinth. The labyrinth has no walls, no doors, and no stairs. It is simply a vast desert. Though there is nothing impeding him, the first king is unable to escape this “labyrinth” and dies of thirst and hunger.
The deep complexity of something that appears so simple is my ultimate takeaway from the story. Examples related to the theme abound in the world around us. A single rose or a sunset by the water are both so ordinary yet so breathtakingly beautiful. Some of our greatest moments of joy come from the simplest things, such as the small favor a friend did for you when you were going through a difficult period, or that time you and your closest friends got together for a meal and drinks and just talked for hours. And for most people, the most difficult job is managing and influencing other people instead of complex analytical work. Telling people what to do seems simple enough but actually doing so in a way that gets them motivated to do the job and to do it meticulously can be incredibly difficult. It’s why there are so many business books written about how to lead or influence people, and it’s why those who can do so are very well compensated. The story of the two kings itself is yet another example of the theme. It’s so incredibly short and easy to read yet we we can find deeper meaning in it the more we think about it.