Removing the Crutch

I discovered this while studying Japanese, but I think it applies to all learning. The experts that troll this blog can comment and say otherwise if I’m wrong (I’m looking at you, Adelle).

After 1 term of studying Japanese, we had learned both Japanese phonetic alphabets. Each of us had the ability to pronounce any of the characters, but it took us a considerable amount of time. At the end of the first term, and for the rest of our time spent studying Japanese, our instructors posted all lessons in the Japanese phonetic alphabet.

The first time we had to read entire scripts in Japanese was humorous to say the least! Everyone read extremely slow. What’s more, we hated reading using Japanese characters. It was such a struggle because it felt like such a topical regression. In English, native speakers have become so accustomed to recognizing words that we don’t bother looking at spelling for pronunciation as much as we look at word recognition. In Japanese, we experience somewhat of the same phenomenon. Instead of being able to recognize entire words, we were forced to examine and consider every pronunciation. Word distinction at that stage was nigh impossible given that there are no word break markers in pure hiragana/katakana (phonetic reading) Japanese.

But as time went on, and as we learned additional Chinese symbols (they go a long way in helping with word recognition and word breaks), we all became much more proficient in reading comprehension and pronunciation. I can read a Japanese text MUCH quicker than I was able beforehand.

I’m grateful my instructors removed the roman letters crutch. I know for a fact that had I been studying by myself, I would have been much more reluctant to use only Japanese characters… or maybe I would have never done it. But by removing that crutch, we were forced to adapt, and that’s something I think we as a species are amazing at doing. The problem, of course, is us not wanting to step outside our comfort zone. But the more we do, the more we learn and grow, and the more that a particular subject/area we’re working with becomes a comfort zone.

Being quick to abandon what’s comfortable, always looking toward the unseen path… that’s a personality trait I hope to develop.

Running (me too)

The guy who I run with (ambivalent monk… he’s on my blogroll) wrote a post on running right after his last post. I agree with every thing he said. In fact, I want to take what he said a little further in regards to what running means to me.

I can think of a million reasons why I run. I run sometimes to stay in shape. I run sometimes to kill the boredom/monotony of everyday life. I also run to run away.

There’s been times in my life where things are wrong, so wrong, that I really don’t know what else to do. I’m a writer by trade (of sorts, and among other things), but I can never accurately depict my own emotions on paper. By the same means, I’m also a miserable song writer, else I would have written a hit single by now. I’m not an artist, not an emo-kid (one of my blogs says different though…), not one to confide in others. Therefore, I try to connect with my humanity; I try to exert my emotions physically using running as a catalyst. I run because of love, because of the passing of a good event, because I sometimes feel the need to feel alive. But I also run out of fear, which I feel are the most interesting runs. They start off slow, but turn into all out sprints, as if I’m being chased by whatever has been haunting me. I’ve ran out of self loathing as a sort of healthy punishment (but it’s a miserable reason to run… don’t ever do it). I’ve ran out of anger. I’ve also ran because of loss in attempt to forget.

Of course, running doesn’t make the sad events in life pass any quicker or better than the good events, but it is excellent as a way to cope. Running almost presents me with a spiritual connection to whatever it is I’m feeling. It may not be an actual art, but it is my art.

(Note: Despite how frequent I run, I am by no means an expert runner, and definitely not and will never be a track star, nor am I in extremely good shape like most distance runners are.)