32. It is difficult if not impossible to move beyond functional competence in a language if the culture it belongs to fails to resonate within a person. This may explain why after six years in Taiwan my Chinese is barely above functional. On the other hand, it accounts for my interest in European languages, even in Latin, a ‘dead- language’.
When I first arrived in Taiwan, I would return home from work every day and listen to Mozart’s Figaro. It later dawned on me that I was using Mozart as an analogue of a rationally meaningful world. His music is expressed in tonality and rhythmic order, two qualities present in urban Taiwan only in small doses. In tonal compositions there is a home key which is the analogue of a rational purpose, there is an ordered progression of related tonalities that finds its resolution in the home key. When the home key is reached, there is a sense of rest, of purpose attained.
I viewed – and still do – life in busy Taiwan as like an atonal composition which lacks a home key. A composition which lacks a home key conveys no sense. It seems therefore that I am in the wrong place.