Sunday, February 17, 2008

My Words and I

(photo credit: Azram)

Standing in the cozy winter sunshine, leafing through a book written in Chinese, I was crushed with a sensation of melancholy. I haven't written a word in Chinese except for exams or for the college newspaper I was chairing for three years, yet the connection I had with Hanzi was once more kin than anything else in my life.

I learned to write with a calligraphy brush before I learned to hold a pen. Six years of intensive training in calligraphy transported me to the China as it was thousands of years ago. I would use my fingers to feel the scriptures carved into the stones, feel every stroke and every turn of each character. Shortly after I got into my junior high, I began working in the library. I used to stand hours here, devouring Dante, Proust, Kant and Dostoevsky. I was twelve. To prepare a lecture on Binxing, an eminent female Chinese writer, I would hold a torchlight inside bed-sheet and read every word ever written by her, because we had an all-lights-out curfew at 9 PM.

But where does the passion go?

I can't remember when is the last time I read a book in Chinese. I read English, of course, every major newspaper, and more than 60 books a year. I was also greatly rewarded, priding myself on my professor's comment:"You write better than my students back in Canada" ( considering I only started learning ABC at 12)

Ironically, after working in the high school library for two years, I got a reward for my service. It's a Merriam Webster Dictionary, and it marked the end of my avid reading in Chinese.

Only now do I come to know what that two years' reading meant to me. At 14, I was chose to be the chief editor of the school magazine, critiquing stories written by my seniors, and writing emotional pieces of my own sometimes. It went parallel with the first relationship of mine. A beautiful time. After two-year marathon of this innocent young love, I was exhausted, wrecked and in a dreamy kind of state, until finally, with my parents' divorce as the ultimate punch, I began to write a five-hundred-thousand word semi-biographical novel - a not so-niche way to commemorate a relationship.

But now, the words that has once lifted me out of dreary seem pale and useless. They rage with anger and bitterness; they aim to attack and destruct rather than to create and enjoy. Though I didn't hesitate to choose Literature Major, I complain about the vainness of literature, especially as the senior thesis approaches. What is there to write about literature, I argue, it's just words, words, words, no matter from the heart. What use has it to discuss the words and style? What I don't realize is that words used to be just beautiful to me, not useful.

Come back from the bookstore, I'm filled with lament, for time lost, the books I have missed out, and the accusations of a long-term friend. I sat down and began to write.

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