Saturday, February 6, 2010

Language etc and so forth

It all started a while back, weeks maybe a month or more when I thought I needed to do something about my dendrites, you know those little electric charges that join one nerve cell to another in the brain (something like that - I'm no neuroscientist) but I had heard learning a new language was supposed to be an excellent brain exerciser. So I looked up Esperanto. There's actually a free website for those who would like to learn. I had given up on Spanish for more reasons than I want to go into now and flirted with Portugese after meeting Celeste Maia in cyberspace. Being the scatter brain I am I did pick up some interesting facts about Esperanto but then when reading a comment on Friko's musings in German I thought why not try to go back to the one foreign language I was most familiar with (encouragement from Friko). My late husband taught German and I spent some time in Germany and Austria. Actually bicycled from Munich to Bremerhaven when I was 20 (Now that's another blog post there) but never became fluent (I'm an excellent example of a dilettante, dabbler, a subject 101 person never becoming proficient at anything). So I'm at the library in the 433's . There's some German books but right next to them is this interesting title "Words on Fire, The Unfinished Story of Yiddish." A little background here. I come from a mixed marriage. My Mother was a Deutschejudin, that is her grandparents were Jews that came from Germany and practiced Reformed Judiasm but immmigrated during an enlightened period of German history and considered themselves German as much as Jewish and spoke German. We always had a Christmas tree considering it to be a German tradition rather than a religious one. A little hard for my father to get used to because his parents were Yids, that is eastern European Jews, actually coming from or more appropriately running from Russia. They spoke Yiddish and came from an orthodox Judiasm tradition. As a result we actually practiced no religion just knew we were Jewish. My twin brothers did become bar mitzvah but only after a crash course because my Yiddish grandparents were still alive. My younger brother didn't have to because they died before he was 13. Ironically, he was the only one of the five of us to marry a Jewish person.
Where was I? In the library! So I ended up taking out "Words on Fire" and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning Yiddish." Oy vey, how long will I stick with this? Especially since I'm also reading two other books at the same time, one of which is "Consililence, The Unity of Knowledge" by Edward O. Wilson, the pioneer of sociobiology and biodiversity. He's been my guru ever since I read his "On Human Nature." I was delighted that he devotes many pages to Condorcet of whom I've written earlier and only just became familiar with.
Wilson says "In education the search for consilience is the way to renew the crumbling structure of the liberal arts. During the past 30 years the ideal of the unity of learning, which the Rennaissance and Enlightenment bequeathed us, has largely been abandoned. ...Every college student should be able to answer the following question: What is the relationship between science and the humanities and how is it important for human welfare? Every public intellectual and political leader should be able to answer that question as well. ...The same is true of the public intellectuals, the columnists, the media interrogators, and think-tank gurus."
I could go back to being a jaded old lady but I remember how impressed I was when I first read Wilson and became aware that if we realized how much of human behavior is based on our DNA. In the beginning we had to believe our tribe was better than the other tribe in order to survive. But we're not hunter-gatherers any more. Or according to Dawkins we also have to overcome evolution or some such thing. I'd have to look him up again.
Oh, maybe I should go back to being a jaded old lady.
...and so it goes


  1. Oh a jaded old lady you will never be, my dear. I giggled as I read you today because you write as I talk, mostly: off into trails, off into research, distracted by some music, off again on a Cork slang search, off again into a tapestry thingie, well you know. That's me. Too.

  2. don't you dare! Consider yourself a 'jaded old lady'. I mean. Somebody who reads the books you read and considers the studies you are considering is not jaded! And stop running yourself down!

    You have a very interesting history. Why not delve into that as wel and leave it for the kids?

    Go on, you know you can do it!l

  3. okay, okay, WWW and Friko keep on nagging me and I'll put the jaded old lady aside for now and write scattered memoirs. I'll probably give up on the Yiddish. I'm afraid that was never my culture, I had much more fun with Wicca. It was fun being a witch. More blog post subjects!