Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Distraction Goes Gallic

I was recently interviewed by Daniele Kemp on SBS Radio's French Language program.  Daniele studied philosophy and political philosophy at university, and was a joy to speak to.  

The French tradition offers a great deal to Distraction, of course: Matisse, Proust, Bourdieu, to say nothing of the Gallic influence on Nietzsche, Kazantzakis and Henry James (all of whom get a guernsey in my book).  

And French politics and thought are, in many ways, the backdrop of modernity itself: from Enlightenment and Revolution to the age of Derrida and the postmodern.  

But more than anything, my conversation with Daniele exemplifies a much older philosophical ideal: the cosmopolitan thinker, whose home is the world (to borrow the Stoic maxim).  It's a wonderful reminder: that despite nationality, ethnicity and political affiliation, we can participate in a greater commonwealth of concepts and impressions.  

And this is at the heart of Distraction.  If we are 'born into a limited situation,' as Goethe put it, we can still aspire to transcend our roots; we can reach beyond our biases and eccentricities, to a wider conception of life.  

Put another way, our identity needn't distract us from the richness of history, or the ferment of distant ideas.

The interview will air this weekend, but you can hear part one here and and part two here.

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