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Saturday, November 06, 2010

In Another Life...

Perhaps in another life, (one I got very close to choosing,) I would have been a translator. Being born in California, the only living language that I could learn was my local dialect of Spanish. Mostly from a brilliant teacher in middle school, I learned enough to fluently play the translator between two families who had become friends without knowing each other's language. Then a full scholarship took me away from the border town where I was raised. Without use, I forgot most of what I had learned. Now I know enough to tell what someone is talking about, but I no longer know what they are saying about it!

I had stumbled on the I Ching one day in the library when I was twelve while looking for "magic books." Here was the first completely foreign universe of completely dissimilar symbolism that I could not grasp, although I could read the words. So I began to collect different translations of the I Ching and compare them as I used the book for an oracle. The ability of the I Ching to give the same reply to similar questions, even when asked years apart, this completely fascinated me. How did this synchronicity Jung talked about really work? I am still fascinated with this question. In my documentation of my experiences with the I Ching, I now have a sort of catalog of my questions about what to do with my life, what choices to make and why make them. Using the I Ching has helped me gain the benefit of being able to compensate for time of arrival of possibly related information. 

My lifelong interest in the I Ching was partly fueled by a college professor I had when I attended U.S International Uni. He was a scholar from mainland China who's affiliated institution bestowed a degree on the head of my school merely for hiring him!  Because I already knew the content of the class in the I Ching he was offering (and because I could already handle a brush as an artist,) this professor taught me Chinese for seven weeks while giving me a guaranteed "A" in his I Ching course. 

Of course I had a private teacher and no classmates to compare myself against, but it was only later that I learned we had gone at a breakneck speed of a little more than 100 characters a week. He made it simple for me, after learning about my ability to memorize song lyrics. Essentially, he showed me about how different "character families" were related to each other symbolically. He did this by taking a very complex character that had many brush strokes, and teaching it to me backwards, one stroke at a time, using a story to link the meanings together. We did probably five of these "character families" each day and they were somewhat related to a larger story. When I think back about it, this was inspired teaching.

Probably the one decision in my life that I regret was to keep my college scholarship to go to art school instead of taking advantage of an opportunity offered by this professor, Dr. Dun Fong Lee. This professor, (who I'd spent quite a bit a time with socially,) offered to set me up teaching English and to continue our lessons in Chinese - as he was returning to Taiwan when I was getting ready to transfer my credits at that school to art college. Leaving my boyfriend was unthinkable, (it didn't occur to me that perhaps he could accompany me) there was no way to stay in touch from so far away in that era except for letters that took forever to arrive - and I was an orphan who had no parents to remain interested in what happened to me. So there were many reasons to not go. Still, I wish differently. I did attempt to contact him a few years later, once I had taken advantage of my art school scholarship, but I could not find him. Perhaps he had died, because his was in his late sixties. 

But my interest in languages remained. It was another stumble during college that took me into a book about the Wharf-Sapir theory. Here was another book I couldn't understand, even though I could read the words. It suddenly made me realize that there were worlds of cultures out there containing different thinking styles that possibly could not be conveyed in English...

Later in college I designed an independent study class in "communication" to explore how many ways meaning could be conveyed. It took me from animal training, (inter-species communication) through symbolism and body language via gestalt therapy experiments and the examination of how adapting built habitual routines and contexts, into artificial intelligence, toward learning a bit of the Hopi language, back into polling surfers who were encountering dolphins to evaluate the surfers on their proprietary sense of owning their surf spot.
Eventually I finally buckled down and spent the ten thousands hours plus in learning to write in my own language. The experience of traveling to Europe encouraged me to start a "travel journal," ...and the rest you can read right here.


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