Berlin, German, cohesion

April has been a month of philosophical reflection, in contrast to the scientifically oriented March. In spirit with the theme, I shall culminate the month with some Berlinesque annotations.

As a foreword, I extend gratitude to Balzac Coffee on the tourist-heavy Bundesstraße for providing precisely the environment I needed in the task of crafting this post. The comfortable cushioned seating in front of an elegantly designed small round coffee table facing the panoramic street view… I could not ask for more.

Having started to experiment with the German language, I have arrived at some intriguing observations. First, in accordance with how I’m used to approaching secondary languages, assuming I possess the slightest language phrasing consisting of even 20 words, and intend on communicating in the respective language at a transaction point, I have habitually adapted to abstain from switching to another language provided I can even barely express my point. In practice this results in the most dry and simplified interaction, so simplified in fact, that I might even sound robotic and without empathy, if that was not already the case.

The approach over the last few days has involved the following:

  1. Express my request by means of the simplest vocabulary I possess.
  2. Fill in the missing context with English only in the case that my idea has been severely misunderstood.
  3. Revise the daily interactions and assimilate additional vocabulary to address any apparent limitations.

I could have more meaningful conversations by becoming more flexible with language usage, but as past history has repeatedly demonstrated, the early-stage sacrifice pays dividends.

German sounds notably pleasant to my ear, at least with respect to the dialect spoken in Germany. I will not sustain that this has always been the case. As with other aesthetically oriented aspects, when I determine something would be necessary or highly beneficial to my existence, I gradually reprogram myself to appreciate the respective element, seeking reason why something would evoke pleasure and by what means, instead of maintaining the default preconceived disposition. Consequently, German has become a pleasant language over the course of the previous year.

Much of the German vocabulary resembles the English counterparts, and much of the grammar respects the Russian phrasing paradigm. This should hopefully simplify the task.

As far as the city, Berlin assimilates a large series of languages due to the notable cosmopolitan character. Beyond the ubiquitously encountered Turkish, I hear Russian and Spanish spoken all too frequently. Over the last six days, in fact, I managed to execute conversations in all my secondary languages, including Portuguese with two locals from the German embassy in Brasilia, and Polish with two arguably intoxicated Poles who insolently marched into my hostel room, which I will fortunately abandon in a couple of days for a flat I finally arranged. There was also the case of a Polish woman frantically seeking directions to a certain destination on the transit network, and at a point of near hysteria resembling a sort of life-death situation. I was glad to be in a position to direct her on her own map, which she seemed not in a condition to analyze in the emotional state she was in.

People frequently approach me for directions in every place I travel. I suspect it’s because I walk as if intimately acquainted with the surroundings at a computational level of accuracy even when I don’t have as much as a clue. Regretfully, so far I can neither help nor communicate to any effective degree.

I’m relieved that after a week the affairs are slowly following a positive gradient. On the day of my arrival, having purchased the zone A-B monthly pass for the transit network, hardly 15 minutes passed as I was ticketed by the validator employee as a result of forgetting to purchase the zone C extension, the originating point of the Schönefeld airport. I will not mention the ticket amount, but this was my first local interaction and left somewhat of a sour aftertaste.

In other developments, having finally finished reading Brothers Karamazov, despite the heavy religious and psychological basis, I’m not sure if I extracted any personal meaning beyond the simplest message of honesty, morality, and virtue. I did not identify with any character, which would make for a difficult task anyway considering the range of raw human emotion and sin exhibited by all. But as with other examples of epic literature, I extract much gratification by independently analyzing individual sections and grandeur moments, rather than applying top-level critique. In this fashion, I would not have been much disappointed were the novel released at 50% of the actual content even. (I didn’t say 50% unfinished since I’m not convinced that Dostoevsky strictly speaking finished the present rendition in accordance with the initial undertaking.) De facto, Kafka left his most acclaimed works in an entirely unfinished state, and those survived the test of time (albeit not his). The same relaxed approach caused me to also adore Murakami’s 1Q84, which otherwise receives mixed critique.

I don’t particularly demand overall cohesion in a publication, provided the individual components contain enough substance. Observe how I structured this post. What was initially intended to introspect on the German language will ultimately transform into a commentary on dream progression.

That being said, we arrive at the following. These works of literature, cinema, and art are all largely combinations of individual components, in as far as possessing certain defining separator points. However, the way these points connect remains entirely flexible. Our individual human encounters, similarly, need not proceed any foreword or follow any particular course. I prefer to evaluate each moment independently and without preconceptions, which I find leads to a more fulfilling (and entertaining) life. As an analogy, a dream materializes without necessarily a beginning or an end, but rather as a short clip independent of space and time. We often explore multiple dreams throughout the night, each spontaneously proceeding the previous. Unless you’re one of the many unfortunate dreamers plagued by nightmares, I find this composition style leads to an entertaining experience. A short story anthology often follows this format, but novels tend to cater to a certain expectation of an explosive beginning, finale, and a set of well defined transitions.

Notwithstanding, I don’t require or expect there to be any storyboard or sequence. Each chapter, interaction, or moment can yield as much or as little cohesion to the overall narrative, and I vow to maintain a liberal attitude. And at that note, I terminate this post.