1. i had my most horrible group again today, not too bad as the 50s power frau was absent so there was some kind of cohesion. The other two students had naturally forgotten every single thing i tried to teach them in the preceding 9 months and kept saying things like “I will never learn this” in German. i wonder sometimes if i should assign them homework but know it is pointless: groups occasionally ask for homework, and then never do it, looking shifty and embarrassed as they mumble “I have not the time” or “it is kompliziert” or “I must to barbecue am weekend”. A few years ago, a group specifically complained that i wasn’t consistent, and so my boss told me to send them the vocab from each lesson and review it next time; i did so and not a single one could remember anything, because they didn’t bother reviewing their notes. They just wanted to complain, because they were German (although it was also a company which is notorious for treating its suppliers like shit and in their eyes i was just another supplier).

As i was filling in my paperwork at McLingua, just prior to the class today, one of the sales skirts told me i’d got glowing feedback from a government agency where i taught last year; the agency’s HR Dept apparently think i’m the best teacher they’ve ever had and only want me in future, etc. etc. She seemed surprised at my sceptical look; i explained that good feedback is meaningless, that i can deliver lessons of comparable standards to two groups and one will say i’m shit, the other acclaim me as the greatest teacher of all time, and so i no longer even pay attention to such things. Not exactly true: i dismiss positive feedback for the aforementioned reason, but take negative feedback to heart – and Germans love to criticise so complains abound.

In today’s class the students were as usual unmotivated and stupefied, and so i diverted the conversation to Schnitzel and since they are Bavarian women they spent a good ten minutes happily instructing me on how to make the perfect Schnitzel at home. i was amused that the process involves savagely beating some kind of meat with a “Schnitzel hammer” and when they warned me not to freeze the Schnitzel for long but rather eat it at once, or within a day or two, i mused: “But i could buy kilos of meat and then freeze enough Schnitzel for ten years”; and they: “Ho ho ho ho but ho ho ho ho you make this so and you become Schnitzel is green and begin talking and walk out your Kühlschrank or?” [in English: “if you do this, the Schnitzel will get mouldy and start to grow legs and walk out of your fridge”] and i then suggested the Schnitzel would become intelligent and start to speak Bavarian. i could train these Schnitzels with the Schnitzel Hammer and form a Schnitzel Circus, taming them with the Hammer. But inevitably one day the Schnitzels would escape and breed in the wild, having children [“chicken nuggets!” one of the students squealed in German to the other] and rapidly taking over Europe.

We then did an easy article and both students kept sighing and muttering things like “this is terrible” in German to each other. i have tried many different activities but none work. About ten minutes early one of the students said, in German, “can we stop now?” and i said “yes, good idea” and immediately rose.

The Cop would not have stood for such behaviour; he would have given them homework and disciplined them for failing to do it, and then they would have complained to McLingua and got a new teacher, which is one reason he no longer teaches English, and i do.

2. Now aged 41, an old man, i am clearly a failure in every sense of the word. Socially, creatively, financially, i am a total failure. Having said that, i find that i no longer really care about my miserable failure, as long as i have some good books (currently: A Tale of Two Cities, Auslöschung, Briefe an Freya, The Deluge, The Master & his Emissary, The Epigenetics Revolution, Religion and the Decline of Magic), pipe tobacco, and some good whisky and gin, and some new Youtube videos to watch when i return from my labours.

3. On the subject of videos, i’ve been watching this Millennial Woes video while doing my laundry:

In the second half of the video, Woes talks about his own failure:

“I think that my failure was built into me […] I grew up in a very nihilistic decade, the 90s, when everything was falling apart, social things, traditions, were being cast aside, and that seemed the future, that we’re getting rid of the past, all these excess structures and traditions that we don’t need and never needed. But also in terms of my failure in life, in my early 20s, I think that was built into me.”

He then suggests that it could have made some difference had he gone to another school: “the only way I can blame the outside world would be, I should have gone to a better school, somewhere they would have left me alone and let me develop, let me read books, where the general standard was higher, where the conversation was of a higher standard, and deeper and so on. And instead i went to a mainstream Scottish State school, which is as bad as it sounds. And they didn’t prepare me at all for university or art college or graduation, and they didn’t give me any guidance; it was entirely off my own bat that I did this, because they were too useless.”

and after university:

“I didn’t know what to do after graduating, when I was 22; when I wasn’t socially as experienced as I could have been, as well tutored; that was the fault of the milieu in which I grew up, the very standard middle class. If I’d grown up at a higher level I would have been more socially adept. Then again, these are different things, and you can always find a way to blame the outside world for your own failings. Ultimately I think there was something in me – ego – that was monstrous, when I was young, when I was a teenager, and it needed to be extinguished, in order that I could actually grow. But for it to be extinguished I needed to fail, dreadfully, and so it was inevitable.”

4. Schopenhauer somewhere observed that if you follow self-recrimination far enough, you come to the point of intensely disliking the fact of your own existence, the person you essentially are, a person who was created just so, before your own memory begins. As i read this morning in A Tale of Two Cities:

“Dear me!  This is an occasion that makes a man speculate on all he has lost. Dear, dear, dear! To think that there might have been a Mrs. Lorry, any time these fifty years almost!”

“Not at all!” From Miss Pross.

“You think there never might have been a Mrs. Lorry?” asked the gentleman of that name.

“Pooh!” rejoined Miss Pross; “you were a bachelor in your cradle.”

“Well!” observed Mr. Lorry, beamingly adjusting this little wig, “that seems probable, too.”

“And you were cut out for a bachelor,” pursued Miss Pross, “before you were put in your cradle.”

“Then, I think,” said Mr. Lorry, “that I was very unhandsomely dealt with, and that I ought to have had a voice in the selection of my pattern. Enough!”

But of course who would have a voice in the selection of his own self? Call the voice-haver X; and of what would X be constituted, whence would his pattern have arisen? Throughout Paradise Lost, the created being’s sense of disarray and uncertainty, not being his/her own author. And we see the literal insanity and evil of attempted self-authorship, in the 6 gorillion gender pronouns and shrieking menstruals taking Trump to task for having a huge cock.

5. Woes’ tale seems similar to mine in some ways (lack of guidance, intellect that turns out to be totally useless) and in many ways it is totally different. He strikes me as something of a conservative The Spine – salt of the earth commoner type who couldn’t get a good job because he’s from some shithole estate, etc. And yet, the end result is the same with me and i’m half-Indian, upper middle class background, went to a 450-year-old school, got a First and MA Distinction from Durham, and ended up on the same scrapheap as Woes and The Spine. i realised, years ago, that failure is built into me – though my liberation came when i reframed it as “worldly failure”, and then as “failure in the terms of the world as it presently exists”.

It’s true that i had no real guidance at school or even university, at the former because i was barely developed and just passively obeyed my greaters; at university the problem was that everyone supposed a good degree would lead to a job, but in fact a good degree in the Humanities was almost worthless, and very good degrees were counter-productive, as indicating a propensity for introversion, solitude, and sustained thought – hardly traits desirable for the “office junior” positions open to those with less than 5 years’ work experience; and actually i doubt introverts would be welcome in any job, anywhere. No one i think even in the careers’ office knew this, let alone any of my tutors.

Ultimately, it comes down to my character. When i was living in Leeds in 2006 i met another English Lit graduate at the only Durham Alumnus meeting i’ve ever attended: a bland unremarkable guy who got a 2:1 and had effortlessly sailed into a job paying 2.5 times what i was earning 5 years after i finished my Master’s. This put paid to my aggrieved belief that i had sabotaged myself by studying English Literature – what i realised was that while having high grades was definitely a bad thing, the crucial factor was one’s own character. One must appear utterly normal, not merely in one’s interview answers, but in appearance, facial expression, body language. One must, at all costs, avoid the intensity of unfettered intelligence and privacy; which is unfortunately evident in the slightest of movements, in the way one sits and smiles, or doesn’t smile, in the way one glances up, or doesn’t glance up, in indeed all.

– such dissimulation virtually impossible for those unbeholden to an ideology. One must be utterly transparent, depthless, predictable. And if one is otherwise, it will be difficult to get through an interview, however one tamps spirit down, however one cavorts and grins, or fails to grin, or recites stock answers, or doesn’t recite stock answers – it is your character which will damn you.

6. i did some magic last night, as several of my classes just cancelled (in Bavaria, holidays last 3 months), and i realised i would need more money. This morning McLingua offered me enough new classes (a crash course in late May) that i should even be able to save a little money, though not enough to return to England for a week as i would like (should now make about 1400 € in May, before tax – i made twice as much in my brutal teaching years). i rarely do such magics, as i’ve found you tend to get what you need without undue fuss; however, it’s also in my experience true that the river of one’s fate can enter a logjam and some decisive act is needed to blow the obstruction.

As i was crafting a bindrune (my version of a chaos magic sigil – i really lack the post-modern mentality for c.m.) unexpected conjunctions occurred, and what had originally been a rune just for a bit of cash altered and became something more complex. True magic will from start to end allow, involve, be energised by, uncertainty and the unknown. If it were not to permit uncertainty, it would be mechanistic and hence, unmagical.

7. Failure is sometimes just failure – i think of Shrekh, a Muslim schoolfriend who is now a pitiful wreck still living in a crime-ridden ghetto, hasn’t worked in a decade, has no self-discipline, no ambition, no interest really in anything, and no shame for his life or lack thereof. His life seems to have led to a state of wilful infantile helplessness, seasoned with pedantry.

But there are other cases, where apparent failure is merely the forging of purpose and unprecedented enterprise. Time was, aristocrats and gentry such as Nicolas Gomez Davila, la Rochefoucauld, Sir Philip Sidney, Kierkegaard, could think and write in peace because writing wasn’t their “job”.

In our days we require failure to achieve clarity and distance, and so one could perhaps distinguish between the failure of those like Shrekh, (an abject infantile wreck); and the failure of those who have thereby attained an aristocratic disinterest and force, hard won though it be.

My own failure often seems unrelieved, yet i reflect that i count two people as real friends: Juniper and the Viking; and increasingly the sense of being in the palm of Odin’s hand, readied and preserved for whatever final cause he deems fit. Perhaps, in some time after time has ended, this will be clear to me.

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