A Mind @ Play

random thoughts to oil the mind

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When learning foreign in earnest for the first time, I noticed that whilst making progress in the language itself, my brain also found ways of hemming in my thoughts. It was as if my mind’s vocabulary was labelled and categorised, such that I often instinctively knew before opening my mouth whether I knew how to say what I wanted to ‘in foreign’. Knowing the word for tree bark was as important as knowing that I know the word for tree bark. Interestingly, this made trying to use languages from school more difficult: when travelling in France, a language I’ve barely used in the past decade or so, I often found myself trying to say things my mind believed me capable of saying. It would have me starting sentences, confident in the knowledge that I knew the word or phrase ‘in foreign’, only which foreign wasn’t mentioned. It seems actually knowing what to say plays second fiddle to knowing what one is able to say.

Now with the intention of learning a second foreign properly, I find my mind building a new ring fence around what can and can’t be said in the new foreign. I wonder what effect this might have on the old foreign–will my brain try to corral it into the smaller space, or might the fencing be removed altogether and treated like my native tongue? Will I find myself stumbling over my own thoughts as in French, or will I need to battle over my brains’ self-imposed hurdles to express myself?

Hmm… it’s been some time since I posted with any regularity here. In fact, it was something of a resolution of mine for 2012 that went rather pear-shaped, but better late than never.

The press gather round Lady Ashton during her hearing at the EP

Translated from the original German (Ein schwarzer Engel des Zufalls)
By Oehmke, Philipp und Schmitter, Elke


Literature professor Manfred Schneider talks about the rationality and irrationality of killers, the paranoid psyche of western society, and its search for explanation

SPIEGEL: Herr Schneider, on 8th January 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head, and killed six other people at point blank range. And while the world agonises for an explanation, it is possible to find explained in your recent book, Das Attentat, that an assassin such as Loughner isn’t actually irrational, rather the product of hyperrationality. What do you mean by that?

Schneider: Every assassin is an acute observer and interpreter of signals and events. For him, nothing happens by chance; he scans the world for evil doings. He sees conspiracies everywhere. The result appears to us to be crazy and insane. However, at the same time it is precisely logic and reason running in overdrive, that lead to these paranoid conclusions. Paranoia isn’t a form of irrationality, but one of hyperrationality. Loughner is a typical example of this.

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