Thursday, March 06, 2008

Aller Anfang ist Schwer: Something Yet to Come

Aller Anfang ist schwer. A girl I knew in high school began a poem that way (I found out when I Googled her), italics and all. It stuck in my head. One has to wonder, in such a case, if the beginning is at the chronological beginning—the top left, the first character—or if such a phrase is the equivalent of beginning with an asterisk, a way of moving the real beginning across the page a bit. (This page intentionally left blank!) But aller Anfang ist indeed schwer. We begin because we have to begin in order to get to the good part, the accumulation of things. I do; perhaps some people are different. I always want to move the beginning, to skip the first sentence. All right, the beginning, I want to say. The beginning. The beginning is over. It’s started; it's already begun; we're in the thick of things now, beyond beginning. But all that does is postpone the real task of beginning, of gathering, of entry.

When I Googled (can that capitalization really be right?) this friend, I failed to find, perhaps because it had not yet been written, her article on the time she spent in Berlin while I, also, was spending time in Berlin. We had made the arrangements together. I was far less committed to isolation, to intellect, to German than she was—I knew that I was not returning to school in the fall, and I felt that I had to some extent resigned the task of continuing the chronology of things by signing letters that announced my intention of absenting myself from campus and by absenting myself from America. The point is that she wrote an article about the isolation she imposed upon herself, the muteness of committing to the language acquisition process—this I also experienced, though I spoke English often to American friends. I do not appear in the article, though I spoke with her (in English, largely) regularly and often walked her to her host family’s home after dark. Except. When she talks about the lack of excitement, of glamour, of the stories she did not bring back with her to Harvard’s hallowed walls: one of the stories is mine. While I lived across the city in Berlin, she did not experience what I had experienced two years before (foreign faces and sounds, the ruined ferris wheel hulking over Ulaan Baatar, the cold nights and wild gerbils of the Gobi). We lived in the same city; we had kaffee und kuchen in Prenzlauer Berg. Now we have lunch; we discuss the lintel of adulthood on which we tiptoe back and forth. We are ready to have begun, but not, necessarily, to begin. I have appropriated her experience in one way; she has appropriated mine in another.

Beginning is difficult because it announces its own necessity. Before the sounding of the barbaric yawp there must be the opening of the mouth foolishly wide, the inflating of the egotistic chest, and, I picture, the raising of the feeble, punctuating forefinger. And then. There is the place between intake of breath and its expulsion into sound where one must claim the intention to begin—all the ways there are to think and feel about that—thinking and feeling them, one or many—beginning anyway.

This is the thing: that you and I are not each other; neither one of us is someone else. Nor are we all collectively one thing: one set of eyes, one mind, one decoder ring. We have been troubled by the possibilities and pitfalls of communication always: Benjamin's pure language, Levertov's interpretive leaps, Derrida's misreading. We begin anyway. For better or worse, whether it gathers or sunders us, we begin. Aller Anfang ist schwer. Aller Anfang, aller Anfang, aller Anfang—

5 comments:

Carrie said...

Posts like this are why I love your blog, and why you're different from the other PF bloggers - you throw in wonderfully written non-PF posts once in a while. I appreciate the other posts too, but...as a fellow English major, I also appreciate your great writing. :)

Badger said...

What a beautifully written post! I've been reading your blog for some time and I think that's my favorite post you've done so far--nice work!

PiggyBankBlues said...

this is why i read your blog, thanks for the wonderful words

baoerji said...

wow gold
wow gold
eve isk
wow power leveling
wow power leveling
wow power leveling
wow power leveling
warhammer gold
warhammer power leveling
bestchina traveland
UGG Mini
UGG Sundance
Tiffany Accessories

Adi said...

Oes Tsetnoc one of the ways in which we can learn seo besides Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa. By participating in the Oes Tsetnoc or Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa we can improve our seo skills. To find more information about Oest Tsetnoc please visit my Oes Tsetnoc pages. And to find more information about Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa please visit my Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa pages. Thank you So much.
Oes Tsetnoc | Semangat Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa