Blogjam vs. Block

Everyone’s familiar with “writer’s block,” the point where a writer working on a specific project either can’t start or can’t finish. (The movie Stranger Than Fiction not only gives a great portrayal of the problem, but some wonderful spiritual analogies and philosophical questions as well.)

Bloggers—at least those of us who share our lives and insights rather than links to news releases and such, have a different problem: it’s not a block, but a logjam. Blogjam. There’s not a scarcity of stuff to write about, but everything touches on the theme of your blog, and choosing what part of everything to present is the challenge.

Here’s an example of the challenge as I’m experiencing it:

  • I came back from a mini-vacation to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, whom I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. Blog material there? Not really.
  • I’m still processing the ongoing ideas that Mark and his sensei have been sharing this month at Eternal Awareness. Blog material there? You betcha. But I’ve little to add because Mark says it all so well.
  • I watched West Side Story last night for the first time in ages. It made me cry as it always does. I thought about just putting up a post asking you to share what movies make you cry. Seemed kind of flimsy, though, like my last real post this month on studying Spanish!
  • And then there’s just this thought that’s been in my head today. It’s from an observation that Fr. Matthew Fox made in The Coming of the Cosmic Christ. that the Greek god Chronos ate his children, but Christ gave himself to his children to eat. I’d thought I’d give some nice, deep, philosophical observation on the destructive and constructive principles, time vs. eternity, or some similar bullshit. But I’d feel that it’s bullshit, so I wouldn’t. Except that I just did. Oh, well.

So that’s my blogjam. In fact, I’ve got four drafts ready to go on different subjects that I thought I’d use when I didn’t know what else to post, but none of them feel appropriate to the day either.

So take your pick, comment on whatever you like–blogjams, movies that make you cry, metaphysical principles, what’s going on in your lives.

Language, Language!

Ever since I was a kid in grade school, playing with simple codes, I’ve been fascinated by other languages, and the myriad ways that meaning can be wrapped in shells of sound and symbol. In high school I studied German, and in college, Russian. Along the way I also studied a little Biblical Greek and Biblical Hebrew, and in a month or so I learned more Esperanto than I did of German in two years (Esperanto is easy!). Since I grew up on the Mexican border, a bit of border Spanish seeped through the cracks as well.

Recently, my study of languages like PHP made me realize how much I’ve lost of my human languages, a common problem for many Americans who seldom use them. I decided to take some steps to reverse the trend. I’m pretty much willing to write off my Russian and Biblical languages, but I want to improve my German. And more than that, I want to get to the point where I’m truly decent in Spanish, Esperanto, and Catalan (the language of Barcelona and northwestern Spain — a new one for me).

I plan to cycle through periods of a few months each concentrating on Spanish and Catalan, with short periods in between to improve my Esperanto. (This weekend I practically brought my level of Esperanto back to where it was twenty years ago.) German, I’ll tend to later.

Learning languages now is a hell of a lot more fun than it was when I was in school:

  • Podcasts
  • International TV broadcasts and newspapers on the Web
  • Blogs
  • Web courses
  • Easily-ordered foreign-language books (I’m reading El Alquimista en español)
  • Movies, videos, and DVDs (I’ve already rented several Mexican and Spanish films from the Naro)
  • Wikipedias. (Did you know the German Wikipedia is the second largest, with nearly 500,000 articles? Or that the Spanish wiki has nearly 170,000, that Catalan has 46,000? Or that oft-denigrated Esperanto is resurgent with 61,000 Wikipedia articles and now a full-time TV station?)
  • Music (Check out this achingly beautiful song by Jorge Drexler, courtesy of Luis Coelho’s link.)
  • E-mail, forums, chat… it just goes on.

Why bother? Well, yeah, I want to visit Spain, especially Barcelona, but it’s more than that. The Internet makes it possible for the first time for any willing, literate person to truly transcend the limitations of living within a single culture, and become a citizen of the world. I’ve always felt I was, but I want to realize that more concretely.

I think studying the words of another culture brings home how arbitrary the words really are, and primes us for seeing what’s beyond the mere words and thoughts. At least, like everything else, it can if we let it…

Paz y amor, pau i amor, paco kaj amo, Friede und Liebe! —jon

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