Archive for the ‘Private thoughts’ Category

The Sofrim Chain of Being

March 26, 2010

Sofrim – (from Hebrew, literally “authors” or “litterateurs”)

In Israel, and I imagine in other countries as well, there is a particular tax status called “Sachar Sofrim”, translated somewhat flowerly as “The Wage of Penmen”. About 7 years ago, when I began working as a typist/translator for Israeli Deaf college students, I had to acquire a permit from the tax authorities confirming that I am a “Sofer”, which is usually the word in Hebrew used to denote authors, bookwriters, and men and women of letters.

In my work I mostly produced a verbatim textual account of what people (usually professors) said and wrote down on blackboards, and when I had to translate – signed the words in Sign Language (ISL, to be precise).

A few years ago, when I had my first hack at translating English-Hebrew, I required the same kind of tax-exempt status, to my surprise and delight (dealing with tax authorities is not my idea of an adventure).

This led me to the realization that writers, or Sofrim, may have a certain hierarchy, but all belong to the same tree of art and science, what I sometimes affectionately call “wordsmithing”. As a wordsmith, you basically write, and it doesn’t quite matter if you write someone else’s words, either written down or spoken, or your own words. I spent years and years scribing, and I still do that today. In my opinion, scribing is the “lowest rung in the Sofrim Chain of Being”. There is a modicum of artistry in being a scribe, or at least a good one: you need to be very punctual, you eventually develop certain knacks and intuitions – especially after having to scribe inaudible audio or simply unintelligible people for a long while.

This breaks down quite notably when you begin to translate, and that’s where we come to the next rung in the SCB – translating. A translator is a bridge creaking under the cultures that cross it. To translate, one must know personally and, in my opinion, painstakingly, the two cultures one wishes to mediate for. Languages are not collections of interchangeable words, arbitrarily chosen by different cultures simply because of their differing geography.

Languages are internal worlds of entire cultures – and they contain the very soul of the people who use them. A translator must know two languages to translate, and it follows, then, that in order to do his/her job, a translator needs to deeply understand the internal worlds of the two cultures bound by his work.

Translating is a work that sometimes frustratingly force the artisan to learn, obviously. But to a greater extent than I imagined at first, the vast majority of my work is actually a concerted effort to be sensitive, to reach out emotionally to the cultural baggage I personally contain.

I’m not American, or Anglo-Saxon in descent in any appreciable way, not genetically, anyway. But my bond with English stems from my childhood in a linguistically-challenged environment. I am, in other words, compensating for a world without words or for a world suffering from an ever-endured shortage of words.

I believe that translating is probably the SCB rung directly below the one in which you actually write your own stuff, and perhaps that is the rung in which the artist requires the least bit of learning and the most bit of feeling in his work. Obviously, an author requires an abundance of knowledge to create anything meaningful – but I suspect that if I shall ever be fortunate enough to write my own material and, hell’s bells, make a living out of it – I would be doing most of my writing with my heart.

Loss For Words

June 12, 2009

My biggest issue with Dad is his inability to understand what I’m saying. My life’s occupation has been to break down Hebrew (and rarely, English) into tiny fathomable bits. Undoubtedly, much is lost in translation, but after the process of verbal decomposition is finished: Dad was always able to understand what people are, more or less,  telling him.

Often, the job included more advocacy than interpretation – which is defined (by me) merely as the conveyance of ideas, meanings and words between two participants using a human or mechanical mediator.

So now, when I am at my present condition, with my second suicide attempt unsuccessful (that was Wednesday, 10/6/2009), and I actually do need “to be saved” – I know that I can only be saved by an indestructable soul that can truly master the manipulation of words.

I need help. The only thing I know is that it will take a very large vocabulary to get through to me.

I live, breathe and flourish through words,

and now I may die without the right ones.

Irrational Atheists

May 20, 2009

There’s two blogs I read every day, and, nowadays when most of what I do is study and work, two blogs that I read, period: 

 

those are Pharyngula and Evangelical Realism.

 

Deacon Duncan, the author of Evangelical Realism, had a wonderful series of posts about a book by one Vox Day, a smug mouthpiece of American wingnut assfuckery, called “The Irrational Athiest”. 

For Vox, the irrational atheist is irrational because he fails to believe in (apparently) the Christian God (probably a very specific, sectarian version of said God, too). 

I will waver the opportunity to explain why an atheist would not be irrational by failing to do that. First, that’s not the business of this post, and secondly, DD did it way better than I ever will.

 

I will, however, give a few examples of how this particular atheist can be irrational, and how I feel and what I think about my personal irrational behavior.

(more…)

A Sign for Mommy

November 1, 2008

These days, I don’t write about Mom as I used to back in the pre-Efes days, but this is an extraordinary occasion, and it demands a reference.

Tomorrow is the first day of my training as a certified Israeli Sign Language interpreter.

I often, in my many sojourns into the (mostly) foreign blogosphere, point out that I was “born and raised Jewish”. I add that I’m an Israeli, ethnically Jewish, a person of some Jewish or some Israeli tradition, a modern-day tri-lingual Hebrew.

But the truth of the matter is different, and I can’t blame myself for not stating it bluntly whenever I introduce my “origins”.

The truth is, really, that the true upbringing that I had can only be faithfully be described as “Born and raised Deaf”.

After the Efes, I decided that my infatuation with Biology is not enough. I felt  that it’s vitally important for me to remember not only where I want to be (a cog in the massive cogwheel of science), but also also where I came from (a Deaf person with functioning ears).

This is for you, Mom. I will always love you.

Post Cemetry

October 24, 2008

Today I found myself contemplating what happens to posts once they die. The most circulated blog I can think of is probably Pharyngula. PZ Myers’ words are being viewed and re-viewed about a million times every month, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets to more than that on particularly spicy seasons. But even Pharyngula has archives, and I’m betting the ancient posts (especially those on Pharyngula.org, the older blog) never get accessed again.

Blogs aren’t like books, codices of carefully constructed words, designed, should people “read Kafka” or “read Conan Doyle” to be immortalized as character witnesses for the authors who created them.

But with blogs, words are ephemeral. PZ Myers and other notable bloggers might have written amazing and popular posts in the past, and those posts are forever forgotten. It’s possible that some literary jewels were created almost on a daily basis, and they’re all gone forever. In a way, this makes blogging a middle-ground between literature and journalism. Sure, responsible bloggers proof-read and carefully pick their post’s main topics and issues, and very serious bloggers even write multiple drafts – but no post ever conceived beats the literary manuscript. The worded piece of art that its creator proudly refers to it as “my book”.

All of this made me come to the realization that even when I write a post that actually gets read (the only example I can give is the post I wrote about the Yom Kippur riots), I know that it doesn’t matter much. People click on a link, skim through your carefully crafted words, and forget all about you, or blog, and your post the next day.

So what makes the distinction between “a person who blogs” and a “blogger”? Unlike bookwriters, it’s not any particular post or even a particular category of posts, but simply the style and history of the blog. Most Pharyngula readers aren’t science afficionados, and even though I love reading PZ’s posts on science, most of the time PZ writes about activist freethought and liberal politics (or about their antagonists).

This is, of course, not a problem in the least, but still, Pharyngula is without a doubt more of an “Atheist blog” than a “Science blog”, and that’s hardly a shame. Seeing the world of science through a self-avowed atheist with the charming and captivating worldview of PZ Myers is quite rewarding on its own. However, reading a science textbook is rewarding in a totally different fashion.

This also brought me to the realization that this blog will probably never succeed in its current setting. It’s not necessarily because I’m a bad writer (I’d say “smack average” would describe me well) or because I write about boring topics (hardly, I’ve touched some interesting issues, entirely not of my own merit, while this blog’s been alive) – I think it’s because this blog doesn’t offer the possibility of a posse like other blogs do (religion related blogs are a good example to cite). I do not offer “a home for like-minded atheists” like Pharyngula does. I do not offer a breeding ground for passionate biologists or even rather interested young peers.
Obsessed With Reality, like me, is destined to always swivel and veer to whichever my convoluted mind is up to and that, since I’m no celebrity, politician, or large-breasted female human, is of no interest to almost anyone (except other reality-obsessives, which I scarcely meet or know of).

This fact, although disheartening, is never going to be a death warrant for the blog. Writing things down endows me with some sort of releasing sensation. To be obnoxiously poetic, I could say that putting my meandering thoughts and ideas in writing “sets them free”, in a way – and that is something I’ll always love and require and fortunately, this doesn’t need a large readership to achieve.

Getaways

September 15, 2008

Knowing what I did and what happened, I know that for the most part, I brought this on myself. And if this is a somewhat unfair judgment, then, in any case, I had no control of the things that have transpired.

After the meltdown, I knew that I will be, for the most part, left alone. Even now, after all this change, I still find myself yearning for a phone call, or someone inviting me, someone remembering me. I know that things had to go in a certain route and the only way this route could lead me is to some place where the past is buried deep and can never be unearthed.

The people that matter stayed, and stayed in their form entire. So, this new world may be a lonely one, but at least it lacks a sure downward spiral into annihilation. I still feel grateful that the very few that remained by my side when everyone else understandably showed their back to me did in fact stay to this day.

So I scurried off and shot myself into a path I’ve always loved, a love that is assured by my deaf heritage, and not something that I can deny, my love for science notwithstanding.

So, among other things, I think the most important thing to re-acquire after my “rebirth” is those sweet getaways from loneliness I once had and could no longer have today. Getaways in people that this time, I could trust and, even if I won’t, I won’t be trying to burn my way into self-destruction, or will be missing their part in sending me there.

I came back from that fire to build, or at least, to not destroy further.