Heroes are not for worshipping.
Nor for murdering either, titles notwithstanding.
They’re for surpassing.
You want to get to the point with your heroes that you have internalized so much of their repertoire — of their essence — that you no longer respect them. You no longer look up to them. You look down or at least across at them. You think: “if this ugly idiot could do it 2, so can I”.
Do this one hero at a time, and then move on to the next, bigger, better hero. Like a snake shedding her skin.
A language is sort of like a person. A hero, if you will 3. Those of us who learn a language by choice (rather than by accident of post-birth environment), we tend to love our chosen language (“L2”) too much. We tend to deify it. We put it up on a pedestal.
This is bad.
We want to be more…predatory. We want to be like a vampire or…or…one of those hardcore spiders that…that liquefy the insides of their lunch and then suck it up 4? We want to literally consume our L2. To take it inside us. To suck the life out of it.
It’s great to like or even love your L2, but it doesn’t help to adore it. It doesn’t help to worship it. Never. Not at any point in the process. Worship is not a place we can work from. Worship is not a place we can learn or grow from. The worship mindset doesn’t allow for touching, and without touching, there is no meaningful contact, no experimentation, no mixing, no matching, no prodding. And worship definitely doesn’t allow for surpassing. Almost by definition, we are forever beneath, different from and separate from the things we metaphorically worship. We can never equal, surpass or dominate that which we worship because the worship mindset will not allow it.
Keep worship to your religion or whatever if that’s how you roll. But don’t worship your heroes.
People who over-value (worship) books don’t read them 5. People who over-value chicks can’t talk to them. People who over-value (worship) Japanese won’t learn it: it’s too freaking precious to be “soiled” by your gaze, your hands, your impure gaijin mouth 6.
Not cool, yo. This isn’t going to help us; this is not what we want. You don’t want to be that guy with the unopened toys and unread comic books. With the unopened language. You want to like Japanese enough that you’ll touch it a lot, but never so much that you won’t lay a finger on it for fear of messing it up. That’s lame. And unsatisfying. Don’t turn your life into a museum, filled with look-but-no-touch artifacts. Be the artifact-maker. Be the artifact-user. Be the artifact 7.
Does that even make sense? I dunno…what I’m trying to say is…Alexander the Great was too busy killing people and banging Persian boys 8 to…like…his toys and ambitions weren’t for looking at? He was the artifact-maker, not the curator of the Museum of Alexander the Great’s Crazy Adventures. I mean…I guess all I’m saying is that decorative towels are lame — towel worship — and you want to start using the figurative decorative towels in your life for actual wiping.
Japanese is not a decorative towel. Don’t save it for looking at. Don’t save the fun parts for later.
Food is for eating. Fun is for having. Tools are for using. Go wear them out. Wear your heroes out.
Stop being a worshipper. Become a farmer. Become a predator.
Kill your heroes 9.
- “Catch up and overtake”, “catch up and surpass”, one of the Meiji era slogans that built modern Japan. ↩
- Whatever “it” is ↩
- Will you? ↩
- There’s an MCD metaphor if I ever saw one…assuming there actually are spiders that do this, I don’t even know…I just write these things; I don’t check ’em. That’s your job 😉 ↩
- cf. Mark Twain: “A classic is a book that everyone praises and no one reads.” ↩
- Random aside: Foreigners tend to be the most nativist of all when it comes to Japanese language ability. Japanese people will meaningfully acknowledge your Japanese ability (I’m talking money and top-tier literary awards here) before foreigners will. ↩
- ? ↩
- …What, I’m supposed to be mature about this? 😛 ↩
- No, really, please don’t actually harm anyone 😛 ↩