Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Absolute Dilettante

I recently described myself as a professional dilettante (or something similar) to a friend during a passionate discussion about creativity, over popsicles. I was informed that this was impossible...and I suppose that I agree, but at the same time I truly believe that the word dilettante, and it's meaning in Western culture, has been the unfortunate victim of some form of "smear campaign" of sorts. I'm not implying that this is part of some kind of cabalistic conspiracy (though ironically that word itself has been demonized to the point that it's mere utterance renders the one using it virtually incredible), but I do feel that specialization is so encouraged in our society that the concept of being well-rounded is like the preverbial baby thrown out with the bathwater. (I'll save my rant on the beauty-of and proper use-of cliche's/truisims/axioms later!)

Robert Heinlein is one of a handful of Sci-Fi Authors that have much more to offer us in the field of literature and social criticism than most will allow credit to a genre that has largely been ghettoized and ridiculed. This quote sums up my own philosophy on the subject quite well:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

-Robert Heinlein (from Time Enough for Love)

My opinion is that absolutes don't exist outside of theory and faith. I'm also of the opinion that it is preferrable to be known as a dilettante (common/derogatory meaning being dabbler) rather than a one-trick pony regardless of the perceived importance of any one particular skill. I feel we should by all means have one or two specialties but not at the exclusion of being well-rounded and open minded. This concept was highly valued in the past. The common phrase used to describe this type of person would be "Renaissance Man" but I prefer the term Polymath.

One more from Heinlein before I go. It's as if I've been reading his past-mind:

"Expertise in one field does not carry over into other fields, But experts often think so. The narrower their field of knowledge the more likely they are to think so."

Been running into that problem a lot in recent years....More Polymaths and Less arrogant Piss Ants, please!

(Above image: Pythagoras of Crotana - J. Augustus Knapp)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cause and Effect

Howdy Folks! 'Member me?....Odd to look back at the history of my blog (if you could even call it that at this point) and compare the frequency of new posts with what was happening in my life. It's been a bit of a roller-coaster for quite a while and I look forward to a long period of relative calm.

I'm a firm believer in attempting to strike that balance between the zen-like attitude of 'everything happens for a reason at it's own rate, etc.', and the more proactive approach that might be summed up as carpe diem. I think I've always been like that to some degree, but when I was younger I wrongly believed that I was just lazy, and irresponsible for relying too much on the former approach. With a bit of experience I've come to realize the importance of picking ones battles carefully...learning to whittle issues down to their essential elements and then choosing which ones are most important to me personally.

At this point in our country's history it's encouraging that so many among us seem to want to return to what might be called the 'simple life'. I've dreamed of this myself for many years now, but for a variety of reasons including societal expectations, perceived expectations from friends, relatives and significant others (or insignificant for that matter) and mostly my own fear of making a living with my own talents that dream has been postponed seemingly indefinitely. Recently, my employer (who I will refer to as THE STATE OF TEXAS) has thrown a monkeywrench into my life in the form of a layoff...

The timing seems to be the work of fate, though I suspect it also has a lot to do with the sad state of politics/business in this state, the country and much of the civilized world. Greed and FEAR seem to be behind many of the important decisions that affect our very way of life, and the division between the haves and have-nots grows daily. The very concept of a middle class is literally being destroyed and I often wonder if this is not all by design, but that is a topic for another day.

Life/The Universe/My higher self/My subconcious (or really consistent random chance) has been slapping me upside the head with the fact that I need to not only assert myself much more but I also need to make much better use of the creative talents that I have. All signs indicate that the more community-based, creatively satisfying and in some ways 'simpler' life I've always wanted has a strong possibility of exisiting if I can only put into practice what I've always believed: Everything we'll ever need is already inside each of us. Embrace the fact that you will fail on occasion. Work hard doing something that you love and you will achieve success on your own terms....And eat Mexican food at least once a week.