So here are some vignettes of what I have been doing when not checking contextual vocabulary for the book I am supposedly copy editing, but let's say that any translation happening as fast as this book is being translated means that the translation needs to be checked and retranslated in places, too. Anecdote one: I would perhaps be frustrated by this, or the ever more arcane deadline (though not on my end), but I am working with people whose haste is making something come together in months, as opposed to the years it would take me. So I may be losing sleep these days checking all these things that will not be revised enough but at the same time, I have become part of something that is powered by a will that I have not encountered in ages.
And I encountered the Wizard of Oz-like project manager, who took me away from hours on the job for coffee with the author who never showed and ended up remarking offhandedly at some point, "It is better to work on solving the small problems if we want the larger ones to be resolved." That is just like the opening to Epictetus' Golden Sayings, which asks man to focus on the things that are in his control: "The things in our control are by nature free, unrestrained, unhindered; but those not in our control are weak, slavish, restrained, belonging to others. Remember, then, that if you suppose that things which are slavish by nature are also free, and that which belongs to others is your own, then you will be hindered." If something is beyond our control, we are taught to say to such, "You are but an appearance, and absolutely not the thing you appear to be" and say to such that it is nothing to us. The little things are far more accessible, like how I talk to the cleaning ladies at the university; what is not accessible is whether I will be hired again next year.
By talking to the cleaning lady after the exam I held, I gleaned this nugget from her, "It appears," she said, "that some people have forgot that they are people."
Indeed, people we are. Not numbers, not parties, but people who laugh and cry, eat and discard stems or bones. Messy material. Problematic.
So as I was walking through the farmer's market today, one of those quiet, overcast days when it seems that every vendor I know calls me over to exchange a few words—no matter which, I stood the longest at the fish stall, where the lady talked about her brush with politics, how by not getting involved, she became an outcast and lost her job, only to be hired soon afterwards, with two children to feed, at a newspaper. She had been some kind of IT worker in the early days of such...and today she plunges her hands in the ice to release the fish that become people's meals.
Her main comment was that the sooner people understand that fortune comes and goes, if they have the fortune to see this in their own family, they are better adjusted to the way of things. That those too focused on the material are quickly disappointed and have little to teach others (viz. the way of things). That if one lacks such teachers, one has books (says the fishmonger-if you understand my interjection): books, not just one book but many books because all one needs is never in a single book. She was talking about how it is never enough to live by worrying over material existence, but that it helps to do the useful or enjoyable. And she did not use the contemporary stock phrase positive energy as she spoke, but the phrase, to fill the soul.
So much of what annoys passes quickly: one may even reach old age and regard past experience with that grain of salt that may or may not be used to freeze things (to link to a marvelous blog I discovered today via languagehat).
Freezing is an interesting concept. It is most useful for its opposite, heat, as in, the hot months of summer. From these opposites, I take time from little time to reflect on these anecdotes that serve as substitutes for books for as long as the tome of history I am working on occupies me. But does not control me. Because I still have the little things, and if they are not books they are at least placeholders to the texts that await me: the itses in want of context.
Brush: Ewansim Grunge at DeviantART.
Bookstore: Erato Books