Language, Music, and the End of the World

When I started this blog, I told myself it would be to discuss and examine the things that motivate and inspire me to write – whether that be writing my novels or writing practice in general. Well, a number of things day-to-day do that for me, and today I’m weighing the relative merits of throwing three of them into one potentially inappropriate post. I guess if you’re reading this, you’ll be able to figure out what my decision was.

Language, Music, and the End of the World

Firstly, I love language. Not necessarily all languages, mind you, but I love language as an idea, a tool, and as an abstract concept. Since it is part of what I love most, writing and reading, it’s helpful to have an interest in it even if diction and the love of too many words does occasionally bog me down. Abstract concepts aside, though, I have studied and have a special fondness for a number of forms of written and spoken language: constructed (Lojban, Quenya, Na’Vi), ancient (Greek, Latin, Polabian, Linear A and B), and then a number of natural modern languages including Russian, Modern Greek, Japanese, Polish, and most notably for this particular post, Korean.

Before February of this year, I could have counted on one hand how many times I had heard Korean spoken. I had a long-standing affection for the script – my grandfather was in the Korean conflict and brought home a handful of really beautiful books and textiles that my sister and I refused to relinquish since we enjoyed using them to play house – and even made my own alphabet as a child using some of the simpler characters as a base, but as far as I know, the only time I ever heard it spoken was in the few episodes of Lost I saw as a high-schooler (and even then, I thought it was Japanese since I had not heard enough of either to be able to distinguish between the two).

Come February, I started waiting tables at a small sushi restaurant owned by a Korean family and needless to say, I heard a fair bit of it while working there. Given my tendencies toward social chameleon-ism, I developed an immediate fascination with both sushi and the Korean language and picked up a fair amount through asking questions and shamelessly eavesdropping, probably with this look on my face:

“You don’t say?”

By the time I left the job a month later for reasons I won’t jump into here, I was not only catching the odd episode of the Korean dramas recommended by co-workers but listening to (and I’ll admit it, enjoying the hell out of) a lot of KPop. I’ve memorized many songs and lately I’ve even gotten another friend (she’s what I would call a recovering goth, but loves it anyway) into the catchy, sugary ear-candy that is South Korean pop music.

In my defense, I also listen to Russian, Japanese, Urdu, and Persian music as well, some of it pop, some of it traditional. I listen to a lot of foreign music because as described above, both music and language inspire me to write. I like the feeling of singing words I don’t necessarily understand because it doesn’t change the fact that what I’m saying, whether I understand it or not, does mean something and makes sense to someone out there. It’s the same feeling I get when I realize that what I write might mean something very different to a reader than it did to me upon writing it.

So I enjoy KPop. I’ve been considering doing a post on this greatest of vices, but I have to admit to feeling a little hesitation upon reading the news about the North Korean missile earlier today. It’s a messy business, world politics, and I generally try to keep my nose out of it to avoid the worst of the hopeless, helpless, and pointless hand-wringing that pervades the media anytime someone sneezes near a nuclear plant.

Lazy, you say? Not a bit of it.

As a fan of post-apocalyptic, dystopian, and survival theory, I tend to catch the end-of-the-world bug worse than others. I don’t hold up in a bunker with a stock of amo, but even as I find crises like this fascinating, my over-stimulated imagination turns to the grim prospects the world faces and to how I personally would be affected by this or that crisis…and then my brain goes around and around as I try to reconcile my personal dreams and fears with the cold hard truth that Earth as a planet would be much better off without humans living on it. As you may be able to guess, it’s really better for my day-to-day concerns if I don’t descend into blithering depression.

Still, reading about the missile issue in North Korea today has given me some gumption to write – not just this post, but it’s put my mind on my novel The Wellspring since that story also deals with a potential deterioration of world-wide politics and a natural disaster. But before I go write, though, here’s a starter’s kit of KPop for you newbies:


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