Monday, March 21, 2005

Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur

I found myself in Powerbooks a few days ago. Browsing, as usual, as Im wont to do whenever I feel the irrepressible pangs of ennui eating at me. I found myself wandering into the Travel Books section. Interesting titles, some written by prominent authors like Chuck Palahniuk. There was even one co-authored by Ewan McGregor. But reading travel books only makes me pine for those places that they talk about: Greece, Tunisia, Morocco. Valencia, Napoli, Rio de Janeiro. Not a good feeling, I tell you. Wanderlust is not an affliction you'd wish on yourself, especially if you don't have resources to wander with. But ennui is a powerful thing, and I was tempted to at least sample one page-bound exotic location.

Until my eyes came to the foreign languages section. Books on Spanish, Italian, French, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, and... Latin? There's a book on Latin! I picked it up, hefted it, testing its weight and feel. I browsed through the pages. It promised an approach to Latin based on frequency of use instead of the usual gradual increase in complexity. It promised to give the student the big picture first, approaching it as a system, highlighting how it is different from English, thereby not giving the student a false sense of security in the early stages, only to drop the student head-first into its more complex (and more frequently encountered) rules and syntax, discouraging him completely. I found the approach quite reasonable and I considered to give it a try.

So I picked the book up, and headed toward the counter. I was standing in line when I thought, "What possible good will it do me to be able to read and write Latin?" I put the book back in its place.

A couple of days later, I was back in Powerbooks again, bored out of my gourd, browsing through books. As luck would have it, they were having a store-wide sale. I found myself in the midst of the language books again and was instantly drawn to the Latin book. Once again I hefted it, riffled through the pages... and decided to buy it. I SMSed a pal and told her what I did. "Holy mother of pearl, Im so bored." She SMSed me back, "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet." Figures. She's in the magazine publishing industry, so SMSing me some filler text was appropos.

I opened the book as soon as I got to the office and read the introduction, where the author wrote, "If youre like me, you get a sort of endorphin rush from exercising your brain with something new and challenging..." And there it was right there. That was what I wanted. That was the explanation for my buying that book: an endorphin rush. I can't jump out of airplanes or swim with sharks or climb Everest. But I could learn Latin. An endorphin rush I could afford.

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