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'.


Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said...


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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