Benefits of Bilingualism
However, like far too many Unistatians, I'm monolingual; I've yet to really immerse myself in one language and become truly conversant in it. I've at times memorized the sentence "I'm sorry, but I don't speak (the local language) very well," so well, and with an apparent accent, that native speakers have often thought I was being modest and went on, in something utterly incomprehensible to me. I've not studied the grammar of another language in depth, and the vast number of nouns needed to get by looks menacing to me.
I took a stab at Intelligence Increase a while back but barely made a dent; it turns out learning new languages has broad implications for getting smarter. The New York Times's Yudhuit Bhattacharjee recently cited studies that, rather than one language inhibiting the other in one's mental processes, it's more complex than that, that both systems are in use even when one is being used, which forces the brain to solve internal conflicts, strengthening cognitive muscles. Bilingualism enhances executive (frontal lobe) functions: planning, staying focused, and solving real-world problems. Having more than one language is linked to a heightened ability to monitor the local environment, and it also seems to make one resistant to the onset of dementia. I would consider all of these benefits to fall under the rubric, "intelligence increase."
Nobel Prize for Economics in 2002 for work in
Prospect Theory, which annihilated the presumptions
of far-too-rationalistic Econs. Kahneman came from
the field of Psychology. The Econs needed this...
But will they learn from it?
A University of Chicago study shows bilingualism helps eliminate certain unconscious biases and allows us to make better financial decisions. HERE's another take on this study, from Wired. Note that much of the core of these studies comes out the jaw-droppingly phenomenal work by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. If you get a chance, spend an hour or two with Kahneman's recent book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. Some people deserve more than one Nobel Prize for their work...
Then there was THIS article by Robert Lane Greene, that argues for English speakers to pick French to learn, because Chinese is too difficult, which made me wonder. I knew Chinese was hard (I was only able to recite about 15 phrases, and had difficulty), mostly because of the tonal aspects, but I thought it might make me a better musician; also: reading Chinese would totally RAWK!, and I'd have more chances to practice speaking Chinese in Unistat than I would if I spoke French. But French really does sound sexy to me.
William Bright's Multilingual Might
Speaking of difficult languages: I'm reminded of someone I recently stumbled upon, the virtuoso comparative linguist William Bright. He is the father of "Susie Sexpert," AKA Susie Bright, whose work I understand FAR BETTER than her dad's knowledge of Native American and Southern Asian languages such as Karuk, Luiseno, Nahuatl, Wishram, Ute, Yurok, Lushai, Kannada, Tamil and Tulu.
People like this I find just astonishing. It reminds me of Kenneth Hale, who died about 18 months ago. There's a story - I can't remember where I read it so I'm probably getting it wrong - but Hale was legendary for picking up new languages very easily, and not superficially like the way I do it. He could become conversant at a speed that seemed superhuman. The story I recall was he was going to attend a conference in Sweden, and he didn't know Swedish...but he learned it on the plane!
Anyway, back to William Bright: he died in 2006 of a brain tumor of the type glioblastoma multiforme, which reminded me of someone else who had the same tumor and died from it.
Terence also had glioblastoma multiforme. Erik Davis did the last in-depth interview with Terence, and it's collected in Davis's envy-provoking-for-me book of essays, Nomad Codes, but it's also to be found HERE.
I had recently been sent a brief video of Terence's words being used to encourage Occupiers. It's about a minute long. "Find the others" was a recurring riff from Timothy Leary, and I think Terence is quoting Leary here, although I'm not sure.
When reading Erik Davis's piece I thought of Unistat and some of its marginalized - because of drugs, mostly - visionary intellectuals, and how they went out, a looming inexhorrible terminus in clear sight, yet their departures were with grace and courage, and yes, a certain style. William Burroughs's last words were about love being the greatest drug of all. Leary died surrounded by friends and family, throwing one last long party, dying on his own terms (see his vastly underrated book and libertarian Design For Dying), and, as he went out, allegedly his last words were, "Why not?" Robert Anton Wilson wrote this to his family, friends and fans before dying five days later.
Back to Terence, his tumor - which is really a nasty one and fairly common as brain tumors go, it takes out its hosts generally quickly - has recently suffered a setback of its own. From an April 17th, 2012 dispatch from U. of California at San Francisco: rather than brain surgery to remove the tumor as best as the surgeon can do, followed by chemotherapy and radiation, a vaccine that uses cells from the patient's own tumor, injected into the arm like a flu shot, extended the lives of patients for up to a few months. This technique seems promising for all sorts of cancers, and I particularly liked the term for the adversary of the cancer: "heat shock proteins."
Here's a surreal Portuguese film called The Manual of Evasion. It features Terence, RAW, and Rudy Rucker riffing on the topics of Time and Space. It's not a bad accompaniment to some choice herb. It's 57 minutes long...but according to the ideas of Terence and RAW and Rucker, "57 minutes" seems like a horribly prosaic idea!