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i watched The Blues Brothers again just now. It’s one of these films which shouldn’t work but is fantastic, i think partly a matter of pacing, partly its (relatively) low budget authenticity. There’s a subplot concerning “Illinois Nazis”, featuring the line: “I hate Illinois Nazis.” In general, i steer clear of castigating Nazis, as everyone knows they are the bad guys and i don’t like being fashionable; instead, i usually launch into harangues about Stalin and the Communists and classic left-wingers.
This is now my teaching method. i have abandoned all others.
i found this wonderful tribute to the Blues Brothers:
It features the line: “I’m fucking Hitler, dammit!” Enjoy.
1. Still alive. It was a beastly week. i have a new student, a pretty Polack wench, a fashion consultant who speaks Polish, German, Russian, and almost no English. McLingua recommended the Cornelsen Sales & Purchasing book, for which one would have to be B2 i think – she is A1, an almost total beginner. She is keen but seems to totally lack any relevant study habits. i try to drill her; none of it sinks in. Even after hours she’ll still saying shit like: “I learning English! I muss! To job!”
i teach her in the evenings, which means i have to wrestle with her grammar until 9 pm. Getting home around 10 pm, waking at 6 am the next morning, etc., etc., dreams of death and being fired, exhaustion, no time to do laundry, shopping, do anything except teach.
2. In addition, i lost my space pen. This is an enormous trauma. i realised i’d left it at McLingua and called reception to ask them to see if it was lying about. No luck. Even though only an hour had passed, it had already been stolen.
i feel quite irritated and depressed. Partly, it’s just money – that i spent about 250 Euros going to France to nearly die, lost the 200 Euro plane tickets i booked for a cancelled flight to England in June, and am waiting for a 10,000,000,000 Euro bill for my hospitalisation; and now i’ve lost a relatively expensive pen.
i suppose, using it every day, and every day admiring its craftsmanship, being glad i’d bought it, it is inevitable i would feel its loss. i can of course buy another, presumably identical. But i don’t want to. After writing thousands of words with this one, i don’t want one which looks exactly the same. It would be like, after accidentally leaving your wife in Bradford, you go to her funeral, feel sad, then buy a lookalike in a slave market. It would be better to be single forever, rather than pretend you could ever replace such a treasure.
It’s also the thought of another teacher, no doubt some 20-year-old American, seeing a pen and immediately pocketing it, then probably leaving it in a company or throwing it away or inserting it into his orifices. If it were stolen by someone who would appreciate and value it, i wouldn’t be so depressed, i might even be mordantly satisfied. But it will now belong to some subhuman chump who can’t read or write. Perhaps he won’t even know exactly what it is and will use it to get high. This is not the purpose for which my space pen was intended.
3. My classes have been strange of late, as i lack the will to really teach anything at all. i just turn up and if the students are willing, chat and then go home. This is a bad idea. They will accept it for a lesson or two, and some like it all the time; but sooner or later they will complain that i don’t do any grammar (not that there’s any point doing any).
Even when i force myself to prepare, something goes wrong. For example, two classes just didn’t turn up, and in several others only one student has come (so i abandoned my lesson plans). i feel that something has come undone in my life, my routines, and everything is shearing away, entire sections of my life unravelling.
With the Kurgan this morning, he said “meaning” instead of “opinion” about 6 times in 90 minutes (in Bosche, meinung means opinion), thus: “They say, hey Kurgan, you have the meaning only you are right and I say no, you have your meaning.” The first two times i ignored, then i stirred from my early morning lethargy and corrected him – about four times in 90 minutes, for the same simple error. i see no point even trying to teach.
4. i pray for a release from this life. i feel there should be a trap door i can open, to get out.
Is meaning then really only the use of a word? Isn’t it the way this use meshes with our life?
But isn’t its use a part of our life?
Do I understand the word “fine” when I know how and on what occasions people use it? Is that enough to enable me to use it myself? I mean, so to say, use it with conviction.
Wouldn’t it be possible for me to know the use of the word and yet follow it without understanding? (As, in a sense, we follow the singing of birds). So isn’t it something else that constitutes understanding – the feeling “in one’s own breast”, the living experience of the expressions? – They must mesh with my own life.
(Wittgenstein, Philosophical Grammar)
PETER KINGSLEY: Everything in existence is crying out for a particular quality of consciousness that only humans can give. This doesn’t mean we are superior to nature, only that there’s an incredible need for a certain cooperation. The famous mystic Rudolph Steiner has said that for the agricultural process to happen, for seeds and plants and trees to grow, birdsong is absolutely essential. This is a beautiful truth that very few people know. But we also need to take what he said one stage further, because birds call and sing not only to quicken the plants: they also call to awaken the human seed that we are. They are actually singing for our sake as well. If we can start to listen to them, really listen, they will draw us into this greater consciousness I have been talking about. They will be our teachers, because outer nature is able to point us to our inner nature.
PARABOLA: The birds are calling us, but what exactly are we called to?
PETER KINGSLEY: We are called to be there.
i’ve been thinking, what could i do in this world to survive, what kind of job do i want, what kind don’t i want, where can i find a gun, and so on. Well, i need money, and lots of it; but i also need to feel i’m being useful, doing some good, however brief & limited that good. In Kassel most of my students were quite low level, and i saw an improvement; in Munich it’s another story – students who are already pretty good, over 30, with ingrained errors and no real interest in correction. When i try to correct or teach grammar i get the now familiar “don’t hassle me, man” looks, and so rarely bother.
Consequently, i’m paid to do little more than turn up and chat. More fun than minimum wage data entry but i’m past the age for fun & jollity, i want to feel i’m in some way useful, to someone. i want, in the words of Ben Horne, to do good.
i did good in two ways today:
1. Coming to McLingua, i passed a gimp on crutches. i guessed he was going to the physiotherapist on the 2nd floor (McL is on the 6th) but he went past the building entrance. As i was about to enter the lift i saw him awkwardly crutchling back, and ran over to open the building door, then kept the lift where it was till he entered. A small deed but given how long the lift takes to go up and down 6 floors, i felt i had justified my existence for another few 10 minutes or so.
2. i taught a class of engineers, one of whom, a redheaded male, has accepted a secondment to China.
elberry: with your hair, the Chinese girls will follow you everywhere, begging to touch you.
red: I don’t like the Chinese people.
elberry: That will only excite them.
engineer 2: They will feel you are interesting because you don’t like them.
elberry: You will acquire a following. You just need to tell them, as soon as you get off the plane: “I don’t like you people.”
engineer 2: I think they will worship you like a God.
elberry: They will write a bible about you, the Book of Red, and spread over the world, converting the heathens. You can form them into an army and get them to do your job for you. They will carry you into work every day, on a golden litter.
To illustrate, i drew a stick figure picture on the board, of a scowling German carried on a litter by happy slaves. The German is saying: “I don’t like Chinese people”. The slaves are grinning ecstatically.
This was a meritorious deed.
i feel i have now accomplished enough good for one day but tomorrow is another question. My job does not directly allow for goodness; it is possible, sometimes, in violation of my orders & supposed purpose, to spread joy – as we see in these examples. But i want to shed the masquerade of teaching English, and be openly acknowledged & paid as a bringer of joy to mankind.
In Boleskin he had written to a society for the suppression of vice complaining that prostitution was conspicuous in Foyers. They sent a man to investigate, and finally wrote saying they could not find any sign of prostitution in the small Scottish town; Crowley then wrote back, ‘Conspicuous by its absence, you fools.’
Colin Wilson, The Occult
The Frogs haven’t sent a bill yet but doubtless it will come – perhaps at the same time as my tax bill, and just as my classes end for summer. i don’t, however, feel too troubled by this; i don’t feel anything. Like Dr Manhattan, i no longer have a stake in this world, or rather, i don’t feel it.
i feel that i died last week. As if, in going that close to death, something was knocked loose in my mind. This week’s lessons were strange. i feel more & more that i’m a conman of sorts, since almost none of my students make any improvement. Just about the only improvement i see is in fluency & listening comprehension, and a few isolated phrases & words. But this is really quite slight. i don’t think it’s possible to effect a noticeable improvement, in anyone over 30, who’s already intermediate – and this is 95% of my students. So i just go and entertain and try to stop them complaining about me.
Students often fixate on grammar, and perhaps because German grammar seems so clear-cut (albeit complicated), they expect right or wrong answers, clear rules which they can learn like mathematics. English grammar doesn’t work like this: it’s so idiomatic and peculiar, and the usage will vary so much depending on origin, education, character, that after teaching some of the basic rules one can only hope the students pick up the inner music, through practice & error correction. Most don’t. Or they do then don’t have any classes for a month and promptly forget everything.
More & more i’m thinking about my job and its horrid pointlessness. A friend advised me to figure out what i want to do and then learn the skills necessary. The problem is almost no paying jobs interest me; and in any case my extremely poor German, my age, and my lack of funds, qualifications, linear career path, etc. would prevent me getting a real job in Germany. It’s not that i couldn’t do a normal office job – it’s just that, as in England, i couldn’t get one; which is for the best as i would go crazy doing, e.g. the Kurgan’s job – a typical day for him consists of spending 10 hours creating Excel spreadsheets to show profit distribution, presenting it to one boss who says he hates the colour, redoing the colours, then another boss comes in and says “what is this bullshit colour?” so it is redone again, then boss 1 and boss 2 argue for 3 hours, then they come to a complicated compromise (some blue, some green) and so on and so forth.
One of my students is going on a 3-month sabbatical, helping out on a farm in the mountains. Her normal job, for a large German company, is to deal with experts who go from Germany to China, or vice versa – to deal with their tax, social security, car & accommodation allowance, etc. It’s a job that requires concentration and some intelligence, but no real thinking or knowledge. She told me her job, while paying well and being fairly interesting, is unsatisfying and feels largely pointless. She said she’s beginning to wonder, in her words: “why am I here?”
“In this department or company?” i asked.
“Here. In the world.”
My job could not be said to pay well but i understand her position. There is no justification for my existence. Last week’s asthma attack – my own body trying to kill me – has brought this feeling to the fore. It is not enough for me to turn up and entertain the Bosche, do futile grammar drills, take my subsistence pay home and try to survive another week.
i wonder if i am being insufficiently radical, in trying to earn enough money to pay my debts, my rent. Perhaps i should simply disappear completely and leave everything behind. Perhaps my mistake was to try to live a new life as a continuation, or development, of the old. If i left everything and everyone behind, disappeared without trace, would it be possible to live? – for i do not feel i am alive at present.
No sign leads us beyond itself.
Wittgenstein, Philosophical Grammar
pic from here
At the weekend i went to France to see the Murtaughs and nearly died. It was probably due to their 3 birds (two parrots and one cockatoo), caged but the dander floats freely through the bars and seemed inescapable. i collapsed into unconsciousness and, alas, an ambulance was called.
This is the closest i’ve come to death, losing consciousness for about 15 minutes, probably taking brain damage, and furthermore being saddled with a 5 to 10 thousand Euro bill from the French medical system (thanks to the Deutsche Krankenversicherung‘s deceit, i can’t afford real medical insurance).
i’ve felt strange since then, as if i died in France and my body continues to walk about on autopilot, perhaps inhabited by a sentinel devil, as with Fra Alberigo in the ice. i feel a little surreal to have my debts suddenly and so massively increased, just when i felt i was starting to get a handle on them – all this for one ambulance and a night in hospital; and because i was stupid enough to trust the lying DKV representative, back in Kassel.
i don’t know what will happen when the French find i can’t pay them the money, or at least not within the next few years. In July and August i will have almost no work and so almost no money. i’ve saved just enough money for my taxes, and had to dig deep into my credit card to go to and from France (i left a day early so had to pay double). i doubt the French will be satisfied when i explain that, over the year, i usually earn less than i need to survive, so can’t pay anything back. i suppose they will outsource it to debt collectors who will try to extract the money from me in the usual way (intimidation and violence).
i feel really helpless and at the mercy of just about everything – birds, the DKV, the French, my bank, McLingua; but fundamentally it is my problem – it is my profoundly flawed nature, that i have no useful skills or abilities, and so cannot earn enough money to afford proper medical insurance; that i was born with malfunctioning lungs; that i should never have been born.
i should have died in France. i felt close and it would have been very easy, i suppose, to simply never regain consciousness. My mind was prepared for death but my body alas was not so philosophical, and i was overwhelmed with raw physical panic and agitation. It is a little disgusting that i cannot simply ignore my body, and act with clarity. It was, i see, an excellent opportunity to resolve the problem of my flawed existence.
Although i failed this time, the clarity & exigence of the moment is instructive. i have felt, all day while teaching, that i’m not really here, that i should have died – indeed, that in some sense i did die there. This detachment enables a useful freedom from normal fears & concerns. i do not want to return to my usual pointless life; in any case, my debts will not allow that. i now owe too much money to live.
My financial situation is the worldly illustration of my problem – that i should never have been born, because i have no worthwhile skills, i can offer nothing to anyone, i merely take & take. But taking must come to an end.
Been too busy to blog, lots of early mornings & late evenings, expeditions & butcheries & sorcerous happenings. Highlights of my recent weeks:
1. Juniper, my MILF, says i look like a hedgehog.
It appears to be something to do with my hair, long nose, and general expression of baffled helplessness. i learn:
Hedgehogs have a friendly and curious nature and are intelligent, fun to play with and happy being on their own. They are covered in spines or quills. When frightened, they can roll up into a tight ball.
2. Bought a pair of new, expensive shoes. They look strange on me, because i don’t have a right to wear anything but a hessian sack, secured with twine.
3. My temping memoir is going quite well, i mainly write on the s-bahns and u-bahns with my badass space pen, and have managed about 3000 words, so maybe 1000 a week. At this rate it’ll take a year but now i’ve outlived Hamlet and Christ i guess i’ll live forever so can take my time.
4. i went to a flea market with the Kurgan and bought an Olympia typewriter for 11 Euros. The owner wanted 12 but Mrs Kurgan beat him down. Both Kurgans tried to dissuade me from buying the first one i saw (this was in the first 2 minutes) but i had a good feeling about it and, after spending years trying to find an affordable and working machine on ebay i wasn’t willing to let this one slip through my strangling fingers. i tested it by writing “The Kurgan is a killer. He smokes too much” and then handed the sheet to the Kurgan himself, who was bemused & sceptical. i lugged the damn thing around in its big case for 2 hours then quit early.
Most of the machines on offer were antiques, which look great (jet-black, Nazi) but i’ve already bought two such from ebay: one broke after a month, the other didn’t work in the first place. The Olympia is grey and Stalinist-looking, indeed i believe it is a GDR relic and doubtless has typed many a Stasi death sentence. i would prefer a Kronen-style black monster but the Stasi machine is easier to equip with new ribbons, probably easier to repair if anything goes wrong.
i haven’t used it yet, after a bit of testing, but will doubtless embark on a hideous new project, soon. i increasingly loathe computers for writing or reading, hence my bloglack of late.