Becoming a Garbage Collector

I’m not fond of absolutes (unless, of course, I decree them).  Once again, I’m up against them, though, and they’re ticking me off.

They tell me Mandarin is a perfect language.  If one is born in the right place and/or studies hard enough, one can speak “perfect Mandarin”.  I don’t know what that sounds like, ’cause it’s all the same to me.  (I’m just beginning to be able to differentiate Mandarin and Cantonese.)

I think need to get a tattoo on my forehead: NO, I CANNOT TEACH YOU PERFECT ENGLISH!  I can’t teach you to read it perfectly because you will never know every word in the English language.  I can’t teach you to speak it perfectly because there are as many ways to pronounce each word as there are dialects and sub-dialects and accents and speech impediments.  I can’t teach you to write perfectly because English is too new, and there are too many rules which change either from place to place, or from time to time.

If you’re studying English literature, let us have a little chat about opinions.  You are not going to get 100% on any essay because there is no way you are going to get two English teachers to agree on anything literary.  If our language is hazy, so is our literature.

I’m also not interested.  Mediocrity fascinates me and I am not likely to be deterred in my pursuit of it. I am also of the opinion that communication can only be perfect in that very moment it occurs because communication depends on so many factors that perfection is unattainable.  Communication requires at least two people, which necessarily reduces the odds of being understood to half.  By the time one considers such things as being heard (is it too noisy in the cafeteria?), being heard properly (was that “man” or “ban”?) and context (birdy: fowl, the victim in a game of badminton, or my great-grandmother?), I’d say we have almost no chance of being understood through language.

Do you not find it strange that science (e.g. chemistry) is explored in sterile vacuums while the arts are left right in the middle of the chaos to be corrupted and polluted?

I think I’d like to be a garbage collector.  There are absolutes in garbage collecting: it’s either collected or it’s not.    I could teach my students to collect garbage and then they’d get 100% in garbage-collecting class, and everyone would be happy.

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2 responses to “Becoming a Garbage Collector

  1. Yeah, but there’s still the question of: is it garbage or is it not?

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  2. Yes, it’s garbage. I will name it garbage and, therefore, it will be garbage. I have the power to decree absolute definitions; that comes with being an English major. I think it says that somewhere on my degree….

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