When I was pregnant with my son and disheartened by my then-colleagues, I decided to start studying Sanskrit at lunch. I had always wanted to learn Sanskrit because I like learning things that I can never get to the end of. In my fantasy job interview I would present a class called Tomes and explore the idea of reading the longest possible books, Proust, Richardson’s Pamela, Don Quixote, you get the picture. Things that take an enormously long time are so appealing. Also, going to Sanskrit class meant having a good excuse to take my round belly far from any microwave meal socializing with the people in my department.
Sanskrit class was the bomb. It is so much harder than the modern languages I teach but also just so much more enticing because every little bit of it has a certain logic, a way of being that matters. The professor was annoyed at having to teach it but if no one learned Sanskrit then no one could keep up with his much more interesting classes on various ancient texts. Last night I managed to join an online class, some 14 years later, with the same teacher. Now seems like the best time to finally study the Bhagavad Gita and there he was, a little older, a little grayer but still talking a mile a minute and most engaging. The big belly I had had so many years ago was in his bedroom watching skateboarding videos and I thought about what if the thing I missed the most about the East Coast was just the way people talked.
The theme of the night seemed to be that our past comes from our future and only by really learning from this past can we be in the present. Let me say that again as I wrote it in my notes: « what we receive as the present is in fact the past coming from the future. » So that might mean that actually my Sanskrit classes in that dark room so many years ago were from now – in that room trying to decipher a language so old, I was enjoying the fruits of my future past and now, today, I am being challenged to create a new future from the past I am experiencing as the present. I love this stuff. If you are tempted, go to rajanaka.com and sign up for a course. I’ll see you there.
I was in Paris a few weeks ago, oh you know, when it was just a thing to hop on a train, ride a metro, go to a big city and eat at crowded restaurants. That past. Anyhow, we walked and scootered all over town and even to my old neighborhood. I showed my son the street I had lived on and the apartment building but he wasn’t particularly impressed or interested until we stopped at the Greek restaurant where my crazy destructive boyfriend briefly worked almost 30 years ago and had rice pudding. It tasted the same as it did back then. Then we wandered along more streets in search of a skate shop. I walked by a store I had worked in but it didn’t look like I remembered. Was it really yellow? I only worked there for a few months but I did once make a sandwich for the magnificent Carole Bouquet.
I remembered the name of the place and looked across the street at it, saw through the windows and there was my old boss. A face with the same hair, but white, so I walked in. Jean-Noel. His name came back to me and there was Mathilde, his wife. I hadn’t seen them in at least 30 years and here they were. We weren’t close but we worked together for several years at various businesses they ran in Paris and they gave me an apartment to stay in way back then. He said very little (just like back then), and she started telling me a complicated story about zoning and leases (just like back then) and I wondered how so much time could have passed and yet they were still just like I remembered them.
I am doing another course online, more groovy-woovy in the best possible way, and my notes from that one say: « every time you up level, the really deep stuff will come up again. » So here I am going round and round, pinging between my pasts, our futures, and trying so hard to be in this big fat present. I’m not sure what upleveling means but it sounds nice.
The good thing about reading Proust or a very long book like Moby-Dick is that after a while it doesn’t really matter if you’re coming or going. You might be sleeping and dreaming a better book or you might be reading the same sentence again and again. The last line of the hundreds of pages sends you back to read the very first sentence and here we are again.
Whatever you end up doing today, just do it again. Why not?