Sunday, November 27, 2005

From The NY Times to Mandarin Chinese

I try hard to be as realistic as possible and therefore, besides for apologising to Dov Bear for ruining his breakfast, I will not be reading too much into being mentioned in The New York Times. But I think a little gloating might be permitted.

For as long as I remember I have been a man with opinions. The problem was that so often those opinions did not find favour with its recipients. From early on I learnt that one has to be careful when airing opinions. I realised that opinions have to be filtered and altered to suit ones audience else one can find oneself in all manner of trouble. I remember clearly one occasion, I must have been fourteen, when the adults around me were discussing how terrible it was that blacks were moving into the area. I piped up and suggested that black people, are well, people, and they should be allowed to live were they want. There was a stony silence and I just knew that I had said something that was wrong. I figured I would understand when I got older; and I did.

I recall doing a school exam. That particular test was to be marked externally. No one in the school would be seeing it. For the first time I was able to write what I wanted, opinions that went straight from mind to paper bypassing my self-imposed filter. I got the best mark of my school career.

During my teenage years I craved knowledge and ideas. I had this dream of spending years in a bookshop surrounded by atlases and dictionaries and books on history and philosophy and economics and geography. But in truth I had access to very little. It would be great to be able to report that I used to make clandestine visits to the library. This would be untrue. I was not brave enough. I was frightened. Subconsciously I was also afraid of reading something that would place me beyond the point of no-return; and I had to return, where would I sleep? On the street?

When I was home I used to listen to the radio and read any newspaper or book I could lay my hands on. In yeshiva I didn't even have access to that. Whenever I was able I would go into a newsagent to buy, say stamps, and on my way out steal a look at the front pages of the laid out papers. I remember one Friday doing that. I saw a picture of a plainly shocked young Chinese man. The headline said that he had been sentenced to death. Something to do with a student revolt. Tiananmen something. The photograph haunts me unto this day. I suppose that was something that I should have organised. A student revolt. But then again I don't think I would have achieved much more then those Peking students.

As yet I have not managed to fulfill my desire and go to university to study the ideas of great men and woman. I might never be able to materialise my fantasy of becoming an academic and specialising in an area of philosophy or history. The blogging revolution has allowed me though to have a space where I can express some of my thoughts. A space where I can practice at writing smallish articles and hopefully get better with time.

It is fantastic for me to know that I am being noticed. That some people (and yes lots of people probably hate my style) think that I write well and that I do a good job of expressing the subjects I choose to focus on. It certainly gives me the motivation to carry on. Not even necessarily on this blog. I have other interests and could start a blog on some other issue. Maybe I should discover what really went on those days in 'Tiananmem something'. I am sure there is yet lots to learn and discover. Let me dig out that book I once bought in a hurry, from a train station stall, entitled 'Learn Mandarin in 30 Days'.

2 Comments:

Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said...

YS,

Thanks to the internet you have access to all the knowledge you could ever need. Use it!

1:58 AM  
Blogger Pragmatician said...

You may not have studied history or philosophy, but obviously you've been exposed sufficiently to "foreign" culture to articulately express your ideas and desires.

6:25 AM  

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