For no particular reason, I decided I wanted to learn Italian. Actually there is a small reason; I’m going to Europe this fall for almost an entire month. I thought it would be nice to learn something I didn’t know. I still entertain the thought of being able to mingle with people I’d never otherwise converse with.
Learning Italian is… interesting. It’s a song of a language – the words are actually quite intuitive when you see them on paper; the pronunciation is lovely, gorgeous and yet sensical. The actual spoken word, the pace, compaction of consonants and vowels instantly transforms my tongue into a mudflap caked with dirt. It’s almost exactly like (drunkenly) singing karaoke, attempting some song you know scant few lyrics of (but love the melody!). A song which, maybe you’ve deluded yourself enough, that in the shower sounds almost pleasing when sung by you. In the presence of others? Notes fall flat and revert to a stumbling monotonous chant filled in with hums and ‘uhhhhhs’. If you want to speak Italian, you need to allow yourself the ability to sing in front of people. I don’t know that I’ll come close to mastering even a few bits of it.
I actually like that. I think I have an aversion to considering myself an authority in any manner or mastering any one subject. If anything, I’ve only ever tried to be the opposite. Though I never openly challenge authority; I ask (seemingly) stupid questions of it/them all the time. They squirm, give evasive answers, and I’ve found more often than not, no one really knows. It’s the reason I never want to be one.
I had an interesting day today in the belly of the beast, at the regional natural gas/electricity utility/monopoly. These are the places which make me realize, know without doubt, I do not, cannot, never will, have a place in the world. Their world anyway. I don’t do groups, nor will I ever nod my head along (or raise an arm in salute) with any sort of crowd willingly. I will never wear a badge with my picture on it to get into an elevator. I won’t change aspects of my lifestyle to fit in the sterile view of ‘culture’ they’ve all adopted. I don’t understand. More so, I don’t wish to understand.
Where does that culture come from these days anyway, and why does it keep evolving into something less surprising and only a bit more frightening by the day? I wonder- who sets the standard? Who decided that smoking, while maybe not the healthiest of activities, suddenly makes one a leper in need of permanent exile from the rest of the world? Who decided that curvy women couldn’t and never will be attractive or even ‘the standard’ or ideal? Who decided that sugar was such an evil, or wine or beer? Or salt and butter and fatty things and meat? Or that walking in large groups around a track wearing identical T-shirts with shitty slogans made you suddenly fit in? Who?
I know who, at least within some vicinity of it – it was and always is, some group of authorities. They’re the people who know better than you, at least, that’s exactly what they believe. They’re arrogant enough to think they know what makes you really healthy, and what does and does not make you happy. Because these days, being an authority on anything, somehow compels you to make others comply with what you think you know. You conscript others into armies mired in some dogma of your own creation.
If there is anything – literally anything – I ever aspire to, it’s that I don’t want people to ever obey or accept anything that’s laid out in front of them. Take nothing for granted. Not the stranger in line at the grocery store. The odd bit of something someone serves to you in all sincerity, the extra glass of wine you didn’t know you wanted. Nor believe someone else’s grand recipe for your own happiness and fulfillment. Maybe that’s the reason I get stymied by trying to make a cookbook, or telling people how or what they should cook. I cook because in many ways, it’s only a means of challenging something – or finding that I can do something, or discovering some basic relationship about the manner in which things work. I have no real authority on the subject, however. I don’t want to ever get to the point that I think I do. I know some things – can and will opine at length about them – at the end of it, though, I’m just some guy who likes to cook and play, and I think really, that’s the only thing that matters.
Maybe I love Italian, and the thought of learning it simply because the first words I learned are those that title this post; ‘Io non capisco’. It means, ‘I don’t understand”. And for me – those are the loveliest words I’ll ever know. Maybe it’s the only set of words anyone needs to ever know.