The only routine with me is no routine at all.
– Jackie Kennedy
The other day an acquaintance of mine wrote a memorable, generic thus paradoxical status update: Don‘t call it a comeback. There is almost too much going on in that little phrase right there. A) The entertainingly presumptuous assumption that everyone is paying enough attention to one, to feel the need to tag one‘s action B) The presumption that one of one‘s rather trivial activities [a return to basketball after an understandable late 30s hiatus] might be labelled with so glorious a term as comeback C) The idea that one gets to tell others what they get to tell things D) The naked imitation of a popular saying, an almost winged word E) The embedding of a deep, humane irony [I‘m not famous at all but I can appropriate these very words; at the end of the day, if you play basketball past your mid-thirties, you are well worth of deserving of a pat on the shoulder for heroism in recognition of your courage in that war of attrition called growing-bloody-joint-achingly-older]. Also, in a single phrase, I think, wanting it or not, he packed all the joy and nostalgia of one group of people trying to throw an orange ball into a high net more often than their competitors. In summer, at any age.
And this has to be, as ever, only a little part of I) the truth and II) much more importantly, what I intended to say. Because the reason why you shouldn‘t call it a comeback is that a comeback does have, at the end of the semantic day, some sort of defintive meaning. It means there has been a significant hiatus, that one has lost part of one‘s skill set and that, by way of hard training has regained it and is now in a position to rejoin the fray.
In fact it mostly also implies that one had originally intended to hang it up, call it a career and no longer pursue this line of activity, no matter the glories one managed to achieve. This is a comeback along the lines of a Michael Jordan or the rapper Jay-Z. This comeback is supposed to happen only once or risk to have the entire sequence to be publicly condemned as a fake retirement combined with an equally faux comeback. At this semantic level the question is: have I been gone long enough to warrant the expression comeback? Did I genuinely ever intend not to return to XYZ? And most significantly: how many times can one come back before it is simply a return?
Now I‘m almost at the point I would have wished to be at with my first sentence, namely that I come back to writing on such a regular basis that it makes little sense to call it a comeback. Nor is there any fame that would warrant this terminology. I mean, just don‘t call it a comeback. It‘s not even a homecoming, it‘s a meager resumption of bizz as reg. Because the basic fact is that I cannot, when it is all said and done, not write about life and hope to retain even a smidgen of happiness.
Yes, writing has been a daily constant but on a long and bootless piece that, if I am gonna face stochastics head on, will never see the light of day. Whatever that means, something like: it will forever putrefy on my harddrive, it will never alight on more than half a dozen pair of retinas, it might not even rise to the lowly status of an obscure blog. And while such harsh realism may seem discouraging, it‘s actually good for keeping things in perspective and appears to have zero negative effect on writing motivation. The act of writing is some absurd human perpetuum mobile where a big enough initial investment keeps it/her/him going, against all scientific reason, forever and a day. Or at least the brief duration of a writerly life.
It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense. – M. Twain
It‘s not a comeback then it‘s a coming back, a saunter back to the keyboard where the keys have hardly become covered in any dust. And there‘s an interesting effect to be noticed too. The longer one spends hammering away at a meritless fictional thingie while depriving oneself of the stoic or ascetic exercise of packaging one‘s repetitive obsessions into the form of a blog or journal or diary or whatnot, the more these writerly attempts at creating some fragments of structure from the daily maelstrom begin to infiltrate the narrative scribblings, instead. Suddenly characters launch into long solilloquies on public transport or set pieces end up focusing exclusively on some vexing incident one had the day before. There is nothing intrinsically detrimental or writerly underhanded about such incursions of one‘s own dabblings but, at least in my case, that is not the kind of pursuit I look for in creating fiction. I prefer the notion of some vague border existing between the territory of prose lit and the republic of mundane, psycho-disinfectant non-fic. The latter, ideally, is where, Herzog-style, all the rambling and ranting gets done whereas the former aspires to the ideal of utmost fabrication.
There are other pitfalls in opting for a not-totally-brief hiatus. The memories and events accumulate uncontrollably and clamor, one over the other, for being commited to the empty page first. Me, me, no me. After four to five days it‘s evident that one‘s memorizing and filtering mechanism to make sense of the mess retrospectively are helplessly overtaxed and that, most likely, out of some perverse fluke of memory, one will in fact only remember the most uninteresting tid-bits and try to stylize them into substantial little pedagogical gems of everyday life, whereas, truth be typed, they‘re just remembrance debris floating at the surface.
So, first off, I‘ve finally, after a delioursly long time of shilly-shallying, taken the plunge and begun to study 普通话PuTongHua. As one tends to do with what‘s most important in life, I was biding my time for some sort of ideal moment, which of course never was genuinely in the offing. Somehow I realized this so I decided to cut short the diabolical cycle of excuses and just get on with it.
One of the aspects that was most captivating in the beginning is how every little detail of the language is entirely, totally, overwhelmingly different. The writing, the pronunciation, the way words are constructed, the weird structure of the conditional case, the ten million proverbs [this language certainly is the motherlode of proverbs and, I‘ve been told, these are entirely common in everyday parlance]. I‘ve been holding out for some similarities, which there must be, which I‘m sure are based on a neurological identity between various specimens of Homo Sapiens but I‘ve rarely come across so far. At any rate, this total difference in everything leads to oneself being set back, linguistically speaking, to absolute square one. The European language speaker beginning to learn PuTongHua stands before the language as a babe. Soft, ruby, salivating, so powerless there is an element of cuteness. E.g. for some reason I‘ve been confusing, now and again, „I“ and „you“, an error which to any native speaker must seem inconceivable and, more significantly, unempathizable with. The reserves of patience the Beginner‘s Chinese tutor must have can only be imagined as fathomless; my teacher for one, apart from being utterly excellent and patient, is a mastress of the benevolent smile though at times, I‘m certain, she must be wishing to shoot arrows of fire from her eyes, skype them over to this incomprehending 瑞士人／RuishiRen. Then again, she seems so composed and kind and professional, my Chen老师, that even such looseness as an inner, imaginary tantrum seems quite unlikely.
The next logic consequence of the bottomless gulf between the languages, the nocturnal incommensurability between two systems of communication blossoming from antipodal ends of a continental plate, is that for the first three or four months, this at least has been my hyper-subjective observation, no matter the effort, a sense of total impossibility always looms above, waiting to overwhelm one‘s efforts. There is a specious certainty that this language surely never can be learned other than from the tender beginnings of a human existence or not at all. This hopelessness only fades extremely gradually. In my case it still persists when it comes to listening comprehension…… then again, it would be insanity to expect anything else after 只 半 年.
There is more, much more but my memory and mind are shot for the morning; moreover, I‘m technically on holiday time.