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Tree falling in the forest, variation ∞

”No one can extract from things, books included, more than he already knows.  What one has no access to through experience one has no ear for.  Now let us imagine an extreme case: that a book speaks of nothing but events which lie outside the possibility of general or even of rare experience—that it is the first language for a new range of experiences.  In this case simply nothing will be heard, with the acoustical illusion that where nothing is heard there is nothing,” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo (trans. Hollingdale; emphasis in original)

Published inFriedrich NietzscheLit & Crit

2 Comments

  1. Oh, nice.

    I had another conversation yesterday with the nice man at the coffee shop who reminds me of you. He said he’d recently learned to speak and read French, and that it had given him fresh eyes for detail and a new way of thinking about language. Which, I imagine, it would. Having access to an entirely new vocabulary and structure would be wonderful. Just describing the color of the sky might keep a person happily occupied for hours.

    What this has to do with your quote, I don’t know, except that this is where my mind landed immediately after.

    • It’s interesting that someone reminds you of me when you and I have never met.

      Lately I’ve been studying Spanish again. I minored in it thirty years ago, but it was a minor minor. I no sooner got passingly good with it before I stopped using it. This past year, as the move to Chicago approached and then occurred, it occurred to me that having a greater grasp of Spanish would possibly be useful to me on the job market. And it would, had I got any better at it any quicker. Didn’t, though. I’ve started dreaming in it again, but I’m not fluent enough to get a job because of it. And there’s a demand for it. If anyone were to ask me my opinion, I would tell them, study Spanish.

      It’s always good to have a second language. They say people who know only one language know no language at all. I believe this to be true. I regret I didn’t learn more languages sooner. I resent that I was raised in a culture and a school system that didn’t require its youth to learn several languages. I mean, fuck all, I grew up ten miles from Mexico and not only were we not required to learn Spanish, Spanish-speaking kids were forbidden to speak it in school. But as I became an adult, the responsibility to learn more languages became mine and I lacked the desire and discipline to do more than meet my undergraduate degree requirements. Mea culpa.

      Through my education, both formal and self-taught, I’ve picked up enough French and Latin and Italian that I can get the gist of what phrases in those languages may be reporting. Part of this ability has come from studying Spanish. Since they’re all Romance languages, knowing one can open doors of understanding in the others. Also, knowing what I know of them and the little bit of Greek I’ve picked up has deepened my understanding of the connotations beneath the denotations. Also also, learning a second language can reveal just how metaphorical and idiomatic all languages are.

      German, on the other hand and which I “studied” in high school, sometimes seems to me the noise heavy machinery would make were it to attempt speech. Rauchen verboten! Mach schnell! Sie sind hier jetzt!

      And Chinese! I was exposed to enough of that as an undergraduate to conclude that translating Chinese into English is the equivalent of making a two-dimensional drawing of a five-dimensional object.

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