1. i had a semi-German lesson today. Only semi-, because Ethan rang me as i was leaving my flat, to groggily inform me he couldn’t make it, no doubt due to massive over-consumption of alcohol. i ended up chatting in English with Till, our German tutor, about literature and music. He owns a bar in Ultima Thule, plays electric guitar in a band, and works part-time as a German tutor at my school. i offered to pay the full 25 Euros but he said we’d hardly done any German, and it was interesting to talk with what he called “an intellectual”. i was momentarily horrified, till he clarified: “someone who reads books.” That i can accept.
“Intellectual” i always associate with the Diary of Adrian Mole, with the bespectacled geek announcing “I read The Guardian, I am an intellectual”. i dislike the sense of privileged, isolated status accorded to the intellectual or academic, as if such creatures are or should be separate from everyone else. As a TEFLer i automatically suppress my interest in literature, art, philosophy, since 95% of my students are down-to-earth engineers with no time for, nor interest in, such rarefied matters. But it is not so much suppressed as differently channelled – so i chat with my students about language acquisition, human character, grammar, society, all informed by my reading and thinking, but carefully modulated, comprehensible i hope.
2. Till worked some more on my pronunciation. i still can’t do the “ch” sound, and perhaps as with the double “r” in Italian, it will be forever beyond me. Other sounds i can now more or less manage. A difficulty – we use, for example, the letter “r” in both German and English but the pronunciation is actually quite different. In one of my first lessons, i asked a student to give me directions from the school to “the Rathaus”; i was met with the usual blank stare whenever i use a German word; i had to repeat “Rathaus” a few times, again, the same blank stare and an uncomprehending “was?“, until i added, “the place near Woolworth’s? The big building? Like a town hall or something?” Only then did my student understand me.
Perhaps it would help if German used a different alphabet; using the same letters as in English, it is too easy to assume “r” in German is “r” in English; but it is not, and though the difference is not enormous, even a small difference seems to bewilder the beastly Hun. But this would only introduce new difficulties – of having to learn new alphabets with every language. And after all, regional variations of English play similarly weird tricks. There is some core resemblance but one must not assume similitude of surfaces.
3. A friend of mine recently had a strange experience with some Pentecostal Christians. The Holy Spirit apparently spoke to the church leader, telling him to bring Morgana to the church “to minister to her”. Given that everyone who knows her ends up calling her something like “the devil woman”, “the evil elf”, “the Whore of Babylon”, etc., this was bold and i have no doubt she could have wrestled the Holy Spirit into submission and perpetrated unnatural acts upon it, with a dildo. After my friend’s tale, i said, wonderingly, “everyone you know is nuts. i’m probably the sanest person you know, and i’m not exactly normal.”
At times i wonder why it is that i, who remember bits & pieces of other lives, occasionally do magic and see gods and what not, would be generally considered sane – eccentric, but sane, by those who know me. i think, though i am in many ways wilder and stranger than any Christian Pentecostal, i am grounded in reason, logic, and trained in the scientific method (a year of Psychology BSc). i guess the Pentecostal, if he strongly felt that Morgana was a “faith challenge” would say “the Holy Spirit has told me…”; with my own intuitions i simply say “i feel that…”; and i catalogue these intuitions, observe that some are false, some true. i am interested in the objective correlatives of these internal processes; i note when magic works and when nothing happens, or when there is some apparently ironic misfire; i note, curiously, the parallels between this and my other lives, while nonetheless aware that parallels do not entail identity (otherwise one could say, e.g., that Wittgenstein was Abelard or Milton, when in fact these are three distinct souls, albeit sharing a family resemblance).
For scientists, my speculations would be outright insane, because not subject to empirical and statistical investigation (how exactly could one test if my past life memories are true, using statistical tests?). For religious nutters, my constant referring back, to objective, observable reality, would be lack of faith. But it is precisely my assumption that reincarnation is just what happens, that what i call magic is some kind of real process, that Woden is a real force, that obliges me to treat their occurrences alongside other facts, such as the weather. Most of all, i must be logically consistent, i must work from solid foundations without tricks, sophistry, weakness. And so far my account has held.
4. i’ve been buying Christmas presents. i’ve decided to send Richard Powers’ wonderful The Time of our Singing to my Finnish friend Minna, who was my eldest sister, in my last life. i know she is unlikely to read it. i have sent her perhaps twenty books since 2002, and i think she has only read one (and that, i guess, only because it was in part about her last life). She explained that she only reads library books and if she buys books, or receives them as gifts, she prefers to store them, unread, in the event of a widespread library disaster. To send her a book is almost to guarantee she won’t read it. However, she says her favourite gifts are books. For a while this perplexed me, then i decided to continue sending her books for her birthday and Christmas. If they give her pleasure they fulfill their purpose, even if she never reads them.
i only know one of her other lives (the last); she has changed very little. Her body is different (she looks very Finnish) but the hair is similar, and she has a similar plain-prettiness, lit up by her rather shy smile. Her posture i think is the same, judging from photos (we’ve never met in this life). She strikes me as a highly conservative soul, who abhors change in each life; and so seeks out similar lives across centuries. Somewhat challenged in the 20th Century, but she has found a life somewhat like her last, as a piano teacher. The differences interest me – an only child in this life, and money seems tight. She once told me she has long felt she was meant to have a large family, many brothers and sisters, as if the ghost of our last life occasionally troubles the present. i think one of our brothers lives about 30 kilometers away from her, though they only know each other through me. And a Bosche girl i am pretty sure was another sister translated a poem i wrote about Minna, a few years ago. In one sense Minna is an only child, just as i have almost no connection to my family in this life; in another, we are just differently familied, friended.
5. Increasingly i need music to walk through Ultima Thule unmolested by the post-war hideousness of concrete and cement. In general this is always playing in my head, as i walk, as i teach: