It seems like a waste to stay in bed when it’s 50 degrees out, the eerie winter light of a low sun at its most captivating- through a thick fog. A day to go out and take pictures of dewy dead leaves on park benches.
But, being sick again, what I did instead was stay in at Starbucks and read a book called the Point of Existence (more on that in a moment) and try to stay as still as possible so as not to inspire a coughing fit. All the staff at Starbucks know me by now. They’re impressed with my ability to comprehend their questions but, as I explained to one of them who speaks English, I pick up meaning entirely from non-verbal cues, context, and corporate conditioning. I did manage to successfully tell one of the girls her glasses are cute- a big linguistic victory! Especially considering I can’t phonetically distinguish for them when I want a mug vs. a mocha, even though Starbucks does use the English words (it’s my American accent).
I’ve been focusing my energy and free time on memorizing vocabulary and basic sentences for daily functioning, and to begin the chunking process which will hopefully get me to toddler level speaking in the next six months or so. The process of memorizing is long and laborious and I’m not a natural at rote. It involves getting the words to go from short-term memory to long-term memory through constant repetition over a long period of time. I do, however, have the benefit of checking my pronunciation and aural recognition with my native-speaking friends on the fly- which is invaluable.
But this process doesn’t even begin to touch the level of being able to recall, in the moment of speaking, the words I know and wish to use. So in terms of actual conversation, uh, I’ll get back to you in six months to a year 😉
Yesterday I decided to take a break from the language (repeating words while bronchially inflamed is no fun anyway) and picked up a book I’ve been meaning to read for years. It’s called The Point of Existence, by A.H. Almaas. The title is a play on the quote from Meister Eckhart: “God has left a little point where the soul turns back on itself and finds itself.”
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the archetype of the Star and some of its variants: the Morning Star, the Behenian Fixed Stars, etc. Those who know me very well know I’ve held a lifelong identification with the Moon archetype. The moon symbolizes the unconscious, emotions, the state of longing- cycles, the cyclical nature of time and life, the cycles of life and death. I’ve always been highly sensitized to the moon, seemed to live and die by her waxing and waning, suffered intense insomnia for years every month at her third quarter, when she would rise late and drag me up with her, and I would watch her disturbing bisected form mocking me through the window as the hours crawled by.
The Moon is ever close to her beloved, though, and I have yet again stepped away from the people I am in love with to disappear into the world. A star in the firmament, of sorts- that “tangible heaven,” in this case, being this city of eleven million people. The Star is unique but not special. It is different only in the way that every leaf or every flower is different. Powerful in individuality, irreplicable, but not special. It is alone in the vastness of space yet part of a glittering, silent collective. I feel the silence in particular depth as I function each day with a language barrier all around me.
The Star in and of itself represents a “point of existence,” and if people are like stars, then perhaps we, too, can access those qualities in ourselves- of being brilliant, radiant, of existing in vastness and depth, of constancy; the feeling of being truly long-lived, which comes not from our number of years but from how deeply we can stretch into each moment; of feeling an intimacy with the eternal- which we reserve in our minds for only the oldest of beings.
There is a state of being deeper than our normal experience of self- “that which renders the very question of self irrelevant,” as Almaas puts it. For the time being, I am grateful to be able to get up at dawn every day, no longer haunted by a sleepless moon.