Monday, September 15, 2008

My News

My news was expressed in a recent email I sent to a dear Slovak friend:

'My news is that I decided just to stick to 10 months in Kuwait, and am now moving on to China to work in a University near Shanghai. So that's a step up in the world of TEFL in any case, into something called EAP (English for Academic Purposes). More my line, for sure, than that kind of elementary scouring of the barrel that I did in Kuwait with students who, as far as I could tell, just looked upon the lessons as a joke and an opportunity not to have to work (in many cases anyway).

To summarise Kuwait in a nutshell would be to refer to oil, starbucks, the neon glossiness, the oppressive, omnipresent Islam (but it's not that bad, not like Saudi), and the extreme heat of the sun that really makes little sense that far north of the equator. Scenically, the camels roaming free on the sides of desert roads were the highlight. Actually, I loved my time there, met some amazing ex pats, and had a lot of opportunity not to be distracted by western commercialism, since there really is so little to do (unless you like to shop, as I don't). I got out at the very last minute. I was meant to start my new job in Kuwait on August 23rd, but got the China offer on the 19th. A close run thing!'

Once again I surprise myself - by how my writing style changes according to whom it is I think I'm addressing. When I write to my readers on this blog I don't know who I'm dealing with. In one sense this is liberating. It allows for an open vista, because I haven't needed to mould and adjust myself to any particular known and understood personality. In another sense, however, that blanket sense of the void left lingering before my mind; that sense of not really writing to anybody in particular, induces an impersonability into my blogging voice. While such an impersonability might well be considered tasteful, and a noble safeguard against the embarrassment of overfamiliarity, it must nevertheless have some drawbacks...if for no other reason than that, surprise surprise, I am a person, just as all of my readers are persons.

Who knows, maybe you can't see any differences in the prose styles. Maybe it's just me. But it seems commonsensical that not just what you say but how you say it is intimately influenced by whom it is you suppose yourself (accurately or otherwise) to be addressing.

Does this harmonise with what Wittgenstein meant in his latter, post-Tractatus days, when he said that language is a tool, an implement to get things done, namely to communicate - and essentially little more mysterious than that? If I understand Ludwig aright.


Selena Dreamy said...

Though you’re never a man to create clarity where confusion might keep your interlocutors on the hop, I’ve still learned to read between your lines, Jonathan. You’re not that hard to understand. And you’re even more intelligible when one absorbs the simple fact that human cogitation can never be purely logical but must always be in part imaginative or, indeed, expressive of profound thought rather than of mere sloganising...


Jonathan said...

How bizarre! Do you think I actually try to keep my readers 'on the hop'? By this Im supposing you mean that I keep readers not quite sure of what Im saying. As if Im consciously hiding somehow...when I could pierce through all that and be simple...?

This is not how I understand myself to be operating at all. On the contrary, I try to be straight and direct about the complexity that is life. I just dont want to deny the complexity for the sake of being direct. I am allowed to be like this because I am not a salesman or a spin doctor, thank God.

I dont think things are simple at all, though it has to be a goal of the mind to compass them and make them comprehensible. Ok, so maybe I like to be playful sometimes too. But this is only becasue to me life (and ultimate truth moreover)is joyful and not a dreary matter. Life ultimately is to be lived not understood; even though the latter may very well be necessary for the achievement of the former.

Anyway, what of a logic of the imagination, as opposed to a logic only of concepts and linear argumentation? I remember one critic saying on a programme I watched which meant a lot to me when I was 18, about how T.S. Eliot did operate logically in the Wasteland but according to such a logic of the imagination. That resonated with me a great deal I think.

What I really was saying in my post is that with who and how we communicate will intimately affect the kind of language we use. Which seems sort of obvious, doesnt it? Its why a letter from the bank manager is never quite the same as a love letter, you know....

Selena Dreamy said...

Let me put it this way, Jonathan, your intellect is so closely conjoined with your imagination - and with good reason needless to say - that its very loquaciousness tends to rob its of proper authority. Or so it seems. At the same time, I cannot but admire your restraint at the complacent arrogance of my own tone. It’s a disgrace. I definitely don’t recommend it.

Jonathan said...

I'll take all that as a compliment!

It's interesting why the intellect should ever have been considered something best severed from the imagination. The minds of all the best scientists were so conjoined after all (I speak, of course, not as a scientist).

So I am too talkative. It's the same old issues. Am I verbose or am I accurate and thorough? Is it that I am linguistically verbose as such, or do I just cover too many issues, in too spirally a way?

Anyway, should we as writers always use as few words as possible out of respect for our readers lack of patience,
their need to be immediately impressed (i.e should we be salesmen?); or do also they have a responsibility, as a participant in the experience of communication, to engage with whatever the writer writes -provided of course they had first decided that they had wanted to read him.

I accept of course that both writer and reader have responsibilities, but those of the writer, I feel, are today too often emphasised at the expense of the reader's (presumably because of the reigning consumerist spirit of the age).

Fear Not! I find your haughtiness amusing and attractive:) It also conveys precise content, which is always good. Besides, at the end of the day, what can I feel but thanks for the attention and for engaging.x

Jonathan said...

Were you implying that to have 'authority' you need to be lacking in imagination, and not be too talkative? You may be right, but isn't this sad?

It's true, though, that I can be too complicated in my sentence structure. I've edited this post, as you may see. To me it makes it seem better.

The problem is I get carried away with what I'm actually thinking and I can forget to realise that writing (for others) is as much about harnessing the courtesy of effective communication as it is about the mere direct articulation of thought.

I'm suspicious, nevertheless, about what you mean by 'authority', and am not sure, therefore, I'd necessarily want it, if you see what I mean?

btw, I can see your blog but not Elberry's or the Darkage blog here in China. Whether they've been individually blocked, or because their servers have been, I'm not sure.

Does China have anything to fear from Elberry is an intriguing question. Presumably if they do, this censorship can be taken as a compliment...?