Sartre and my lack of French

Imagine if you will that you are standing in front of a giant painting.  A painting that extends from wall  to wall, ceiling to floor, of a large decadent baroque auditorium.  However, the painting is obscured by a large heavy wool blanket, and only a slight corner of the painting is exposed.  The corner exposed is only visible because you are using all your strength to lift the cumbersome blanket and are contorting your own body in such a way that you can’t even get a straight on view of the corner you are exposing.  That exposed corner, despite your awkward position, is so amazingly beautiful, so astounding that you are brought to tears and wonder how you ever existed before this, not knowing such magnificence.   That it leads you to suffer from Stendhal syndrome.  Not to be too melodramatic, but this is how I am feeling reading  Jean-Paul Sartre: Basic Writings.

I hate reading translations, as they make me feel inadequate.   I remember reading Herman Hesse’s Strange News from Another Planet (oddly enough sometimes translated as Strange News From Another Star) and I was brought to tears.  While sobbing alone in the library, I thought to myself if it is this beautiful in the translation what was it like in the original?  I promised myself I would read more Hesse but not until I could read it in the original German.  As such I’ve never read him again.    This is also one of those things that adduce why I must never date a monolingual.  How to explain to them there are ideas, expressions, feelings one can never fully explain in from one language to another.  It is something that can’t be explained or taught, it is something a monolingual must come to learn, as they come to learn the ethos of a language.

Here I find myself reading Sartre in translation and thinking WTF am I doing only looking at the corner of this painting?  It has taken me a lot of strength to continue reading it.  I don’t like only getting part of the story.  Reading the introduction was dejecting enough:

“…it is Kantian because it shares with the German idealist philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)…The Danish Protestant theologian Søren Kierkegaard (1813-59) and the German atheistic nihilist Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)are considered the initiators of existentialism.  Profound dilemmas of human existence are explored in the works of Russian novelist Fydor Dostoievski (1821-81).”

So many great thinkers and I can never read them, hear their own voice, since I will most likely never learn German, Danish, Russian or French well enough to do so.  It reminds of a quote I read in the book In Other Words: A Language Lover’s Guide to the Most Intriguing Words Around the World

Vladimir Nabokov also came up against a great amount of criticism, particularly over his controversial translation of the Russian soul epic by Aleksandr Pushkin, Eugene Onegin (1823). In reply to those who question his literal, rather than poetic translation of the great work, he is reputed to have said, ‘It’s impossible to convey the original, so learn Russian!’

Here I am wanting to read, comprehend, to fully grok and yet at the same time I do it knowing I will never be able to do so.  Now any suggestions on how to motivate myself to nonetheless keep on keeping on?

Columbus Rocks!

Today, I was at a conference and got a sense that those in HR at some pretty large organizations don’t realize how much of an easy sell Columbus, Ohio is.

We rock.  Seriously, here is my Thursday of which I’ll only to be able make it to those things starred.

*8am-4pm Ohio Hispanic Leaders Conference (where Mayor of Columbus, Mike Coleman, showed up and blasted Arizona’s racist laws—love him!)       Left the conference on bike and rode through the Short North Arts District to my house and passed Mayor Coleman on High Street where he was in a pedicab.

330pm Triathlon Run Practice

445pm-12am Triathlon Hay Ride, Pumpkin picking, Bonfire etc.

*6pm-9pm Columbus Underground Happy Hour at Z Cucina.

*7pm-930pm  Bad Movie Night at Junctionview.

9pm-11pm  Joke Jams (Stand-up comedy) at Kafe Kerouac.

*9pm-2am Pierced Arrows/Sandwich/The Ferals (Indie Punk Rock Music) at The Summit.

*10pm-1130pm Radical Movie Night presents, Female Trouble at the Sporeprint Infoshop.

Of course there are lots of other venues with music and art tonight, but the list above are solely the things I’m interested in attending today that I didn’t have to research.  I know for example if I looked at the Wexner Center’s page, they are almost assuredly showing an international indie film that I’d enjoy seeing, but for me it is better to not know what I am missing, and enjoy what I can.

I take it to heart when people bad mouth Columbus, we have a lot to enjoy in this city…my problem is never finding what to do, but time to fit in everything I want to do.

Miles Curtiss for University Area Commissioner

My very good friend, Miles Curtiss is running for University Area Commissioner.  Those living between High street to the train tracks, and from 5thAve to 16thAve, can vote for Miles Curtiss.  All you have to do is show up, this Saturday, with either your Buck-ID, or other photo ID, or mail at one of the voting locations (listed below).

Elenamary & Miles

Voting Locations:

Metropolitan Library, Northside Branch
1423 N. High Street, Columbus

Jack & Benny’s Restaurant
2563 N High St @ Hudson & High

Northwood Building, Election Headquarters
2231 N. High Street

The Godman Guild
303 E. Sixth Street

I’m Miles Curtiss, a native of the Columbus, a musician, community
organizer, and third generation chronic do-gooder.  I work with
FreeGeek Columbus,  The University Area Enrichment Association, The
Ohio Community Computing Network, and Columbus IndyMedia, mostly
helping under resourced  people and communities get access to, and
training for, computers, self publishing, and e-waste recycling.  I’m
also very active with Yay Bikes, The Third Hand Bike Co-Op, Arawak
City Gardens and other groups centered around transportation and
fighting poverty.   In the past, I’ve been involved with the Columbus
League Of Young Voters, and the BLD artist co-operative.  I’ve been
drawn to the university area for it’s energy, it’s creative capital,
and it’s easy maneuverability.  It is a place where tens of thousands
come every year to become independent.  After finishing my own
university experience, this is the place I immediately came to.  This
neighborhood has always glowed with a “make your own future” ethic
that has informed me ever since I was old enough to walk from downtown
to the campus area record stores.

Taquerias in Columbus Ohio

I read an article and was subtly offended by it but I didn’t have a way to articulate why. I’ve been thinking about the article since I read it on Thursday. Then today while driving to pick-up a friend of mine who hangs out with a lot of hipsters, it hit me. What would it be like if I picked up a Spanish language newspaper written by some Latinos who wrote of hipsters moving into their neighborhood and what they were like, and how they viewed their new neighbors and asked them what they thought of racism?

The article is about a photographer Alexandra Copley (her Taqueria blog), who currently has a photography exhibit of taco trailers around Columbus, Ohio. I want to make it clear, I am not offended by Alexandra Copley’s work. It is more that I have a sense of my people being displayed as other worldly as entertainment like zoo animals.

It reminds me of a night when I was hanging out with a bunch of international students from Latin America who were attending OSU, when some sorority girls stopped and seemed entertained at watching us play dominoes, share food, and speak in Spanish. One of the girls said excitedly “I feel like it’s Culture awareness night!” She didn’t mean it as offensive and she was a sweet enough person but it made me uncomfortable. This article gives me a similar feeling, as does the idea of the exhibit. What are the true thoughts of hipsters and yuppies who go that gallery? How do they actually view people of color? What do they gain from the exhibit?

Beauty of education

I sat with a friend who did his bachelors in electrical engineering and with another friend who is an English professor. Engineering friend was trying to convince English prof friend that solving a challenging math problem can sometimes be as beautiful and fulfilling as reading a wonderful novel. He was right, and she couldn’t see it. Not because she isn’t brilliant (the contrary) but because she had never learned math the way he had.

I was terrible at math. Absolutely horrible. In college I tested into pre-college algebra but I worked my way through the high level math classes required for a BS in economics. There were moments of beauty in math. Moments where I saw things in ways I never had. I saw logic in ways I never knew were possible and it was astounding and satisfying. I cried in an economics course a few years ago, because I was astounded at how differently I was viewing things. On Thursday, in organic chemistry, I had a similar yet completely new moment of awe, where I found myself filled with wonder. I was seeing the molecules, I could picture them, their movements, their arrangements, the natural art of it all something I never knew that existed. It is an overwhelming feeling of bewilderment when you realize that this beauty has always been there and not only could you have never comprehended it before, you didn’t even know it existed.

It brought home my mother’s advice that I often quote, no one can ever take away your education. Even if I were to fail this class, or never go back, or lose everything, I would still have a different perspective because of chemistry. I will look at all problems differently not just chemistry but literature, language, math, art, they are all intertwined. This moment of lucidity also fortified that education needs to be free and accessible to all ages.

Our education shouldn’t be a career training path that is predetermined but one that is flexible and encourages us to grow and view things differently. If our citizens want to take a class on the Bible as literature, or microbiology, it shouldn’t be required that they be grad students in English, or Nursing students. Instead it should be offered because if we have a well rounded, well educated society, we can view things from an interweaved and poetic perspective.

A Dream Lies Dead

I received The Portable Dorthy Parker, for my birthday yesterday.

I share with you a poem from the book:


A dream lies dead here. May you softly go
Before this place, and turn away your eyes,
Nor seek to know the look of that which dies
Importuning Life for life. Walk not in woe,
But, for a little, let your step be slow.
And, of your mercy be not sweetly wise
With words of hope and Spring and tenderer skies.
A dream lies dead; and this all mourners know:

Whenever one drifted petal leaves the tree–
Though white of bloom as it had been before
And Proudly waitful of fecundity–
One little loveliness can be no more;
And so must Beauty bow her imperfect head
Because a dream has joined the wistful dead!