John Durham Peters opens his mouth, and TRUTH and WISDOM shine forth! I was in a major rut with my book when I read his, Speaking Into The Air: A History of the Idea of Communication (University of Chicago Press, 1999), and suddenly there was excitement and there were possibilities once again. What follows is a brief extract from a lovely interview from last year on the Figure/Ground Communication website (available here).
My most emphatic piece of advice for any intellectual outside of the STEM fields is to master (or try to master) a foreign language. (No one ever masters any language.) The domination of world scholarship by English is an advantage to native English speakers, since they command the language, but also a major loss, since they are unable to think outside of the empire. Learning another language remodels the mind, and provides a flexibility and confidence that opens up a key to learning. Learning a language is absolutely humiliating and infantilizing, which is one reason most people avoid it; but on the other hand, language-learning is a small paradigm of the discovery of truth, of bumping against something recalcitrant and intellectual that you can’t boss around. Even more, language learning is fountain of youth. If you want to stay young, you should do what the young do: ride steep learning curves. Forget lipo-suction and Botox: language learning will keep you fresh.