I’m currently teaching myself Chinese. When I was four years old and on the verge of escaping to the Antipodes, I allegedly – in what later turned out to be my first dabbling in proleptic irony – told my Mandarin tutor that I didn’t need to learn because I was going to Australia. My conceit is that once I have the oral/aural basics firmly reinforced, I can slather the characters over the top like cement over a brick wall. 学中文有一点 难， 要记住语法， 生词 – 我应该每天学可是平常我没有空， 还是我给我说我每有空。To avoid such excuses, I’m working at the synapses. Already I tend to associate a half-lesson’s work with a euphoria not unlike that which follows a swim or short training routine. The lessons won’t stick without a carrot.
The more you learn, the more you can learn. Yesterday I elected to take an on-line course on improv, and though I’m not expecting to complete the assignments – we sold the instrument some years ago now – the acuity of my musical hero’s teachings will likely resound long after he hits the damping pedal for the last time. My reader says she struggles with learning Chinese, but I suspect that to be not through some paucity of mental resource (as she fears it is), but because her brain maps are predominantly dedicated to studying other, weightier matters (sometimes of life and death). You can’t win them all.
Tomorrow I’ll begin a course on rudimentary statistics. Numerical calculations were never my strong point, but it’s comparable to a snare drum: you only become proficient once you’ve done enough flams and paradiddles to fill the better part of a good year. Sometimes I still dream of composing riffs that weave together the elegance of literature and the poetry of mathematics. Of course, invariably, I’ll be making it up as I go.