Friday, October 10, 2008

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren:

In partial fulfillment of promises scattered up and down the east and west coasts, here is the introductory post of my Germany blog.

The blog's disclaimer: I take this step uneasily: early bloggerhood wasn't part of the plan. Maybe later, after I had accomplished something worthy of an audience, but certainly not before. Obviously, I am departing from the plan in at least this respect. Keen to start writing on a regular basis, secure in the knowledge that my posts will be interesting to at least one person, and encouraged by several fine examples of the medium's potential, I am blogging.

The blog's intention and scope: I will post accounts of the Merkwürdigkeiten—literally, things worthy of notice, or "remarkablenesses"*—that I deem worthy of remark during my remaining ten months in Germany. The dictionary defines Merkwürdigkeiten as oddities, curiosities, or queernesses, and I wager there will be plenty of posts that will fit this definition, but, as I'm using it here, Merkwürdigkeiten should be understood in its most stingily analytic and neutral sense. It would be misleading to play sideshow agent and promise a cabinet of German curiosities. You'd surely be disappointed—I wouldn't deliver—and I'd be unsatisfied because my hopes for the blog encompass more than just a catalog of WTFs. Hopefully, it will be a venue for reflections on my studies, hostfamily life, my job (when I have one), the books I'm reading, and my general situation. To give fair warning, I may occasionally post posts—modest ones, hopefully—speculating about my personal development. (You may want to skip those.) At the same time, this will be no comprehensive, red-tie-or-green? diary-blog. I promise to stay focused and keep this thing discreetly discrete.

The blog's occasion: Why start now, after two full months abroad? Why after I've left Köln and my first hostfamily to begin Phase II (the university study phase) of my program here in Frankfurt am Main? Why after the initial culture shock, which might prove to have been the most psychologically interesting event I could have recorded and reported? What was the holdup? The chain of causes leading to this blog's late start is long and boring; at this point, it will suffice to say that I haven't had the chance to do justice to a blog. The last two months have been busy and confusing, and the promised blog became a low priority because it was unfamiliar, intimidating, and, strictly speaking, unnecessary. Nevertheless, guided by a passive but unfaltering intention to start a blog, the primordial conditions necessary for bloglife to spark and catch have been steadily mounting. This week, chance simultaneously removed two key inhibitors to blog-gress: my host family went on vacation, leaving me alone with dependable wireless internet, and university orientation activities ended, leaving me a weekend with no mandatory scheduled events. The confluence of solitude and inactivity has proved crucially catalytic, and, this morning, the alarmingly long duration of my hostfamily's purportedly super-efficient dishwasher (still going...) provided a jolt of anxious energy, creating a need for distraction, which charged the pre-blog soup, subordinating its formerly diffuse components under a unified active intentional field robust enough to perpetuate itself in the form of willed activity. Thus began bloglife.

The blog's implicit social function made explicit: I listed some personal motives already (to which I could add the desire to document my time here, to help me remember everything later), but I also hope this blog will be a way to keep in touch with friends and family in America while I'm away. I have proven myself pretty bad at staying in touch with everyone to the degree that each deserves. So, friends and family, meine Damen und Herren, the existence of this blog should be interpreted as a non-intrusive drone of good will projected in your direction, kind of like those SETI messages broadcast into space. Whether or not you read what I post, the mere fact of the posts should signal 1) that I want to hear from you, 2) that I want to stay part of your lives, and 3) that I look forward to seeing you again soon.

*Merkwürdigkeiten, incidentally, exemplifies one of my favorite features of the German language: its semantic particalization. The verb merken means to notice or perceive, and the suffix -würdig indicates worthiness. Jamming them together creates the adjective merkwürdig. Then, adding -keit or -heit to the end of an adjective creates an abstract noun, which is here pluralized with -en. Merkwürdigkeiten! A supplementary example: Lebensmittel, groceries or food, is literally our "means of living". Another example: Staatsangehörigkeit, citizenship, may be semantically decomposed to "belonging-to-a-state-hood." It's linguistic Legos. This particalization facilitates the creation of new words and concepts, and encourages analytic decomposition. One begins to understand why the German language has fostered such a robust philosophical traditon.

1 comment:

Peanut said...

I'm going to be hooked on your blog Will. Your writing is very entertaining and flows. Sending you my best wishes! Oh, and Evan Greene never got back to me, the ass.

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