Drakyn represents a personal renaissance of antiquity, art and literature. “This is my Renaissance. You will have to create your own.”, he said with a twinkle in his eye.
I believe it is apt that I make my first post to the new blog and web site under the category of “Random Thoughts”. Having worked in the IT industry for decades, I know that any good system begins with a healthy source of entropy. There, I’ve done it. This will be my one and only reference to information technology. It’s out of the way and will be soon buried under a pile of new postings.
"Vitruvian Man" - Leonardo DaVinci
In today’s so-called modern age we seem to share this common consensus that we need “experts” to solve what is wrong in the world. This is certainly convenient in that it largely excuses us as individuals from responsibility for the world around us. When taken to extremes, we use this same logic to dissociate ourselves from even our own healthcare. Are we slaves to technology and to the experts?
Along with this expert syndrome is the assumption that we are all very one dimensional, especially in our vocation. Jill is an excellent physician in a large hospital, therefore she must not be knowledgeable about running a small business. Jack is a general contractor who builds homes, therefore Jack is not likely a good cook. Kim is a work-at-home Mom, therefore Kim probably can’t fix the starter on her van.
Ah, the good old days of the Renaissance…
These stereotypes. together with our propensity to try to simplify the world around us by putting everything in clearly labelled buckets, give us a very narrow and inaccurate view of the world around us. Given that we do need deep experts in every field of endeavour, is it reasonable to presume that modern men and women can’t have extensive cross-over skills and significant skills in more than one field?
Through the looking glass
Whatever happened to the Renaissance man or polymath as they are perhaps more correctly referred to? We can certainly identify these individuals from history. Leonardo Da Vinci was the archetypical example as artist, woodworker, sculptor, architect and inventor. Louis Carroll was an artist, photographer, mathematician, clergyman, inventor and author. Polymaths seemed to be accepted in bygone eras, but what if Carroll or his early publishers had dismissed “The Jaberwocky” based on the success of his mathematical works? Did writing “A Syllabus of Plane Algebraic Geometry” preclude “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland” or vice versa?
We can trace polymaths back to the Song Dynasty, but are there any modern examples? Has life become too complex for another Renaissance? Let me attempt to resolve that question with a brief list: Stephen Hawking(mathematician, physicist, author, educator), Roger Penrose (mathematician, philospher, physicist, author), Nathan Myhrvold (computer scientist, photographer, chef, physicist, entrepreneur former Microsoft CTO), Roberta Bondar (astronaut, neurologist, educator, photographer, author), Doug Hofstadter (Musician, computer programmer, mathematician,chemist, biologist,physicist, author), Brian May (astrophysicist, university chancellor and lead guitarist for Queen).
I am certainly not going to compare myself to this list of distinguished modern Renaissance men and women. However, if you recognize the extreme breadth of their expertise, perhaps you can begin to tear down some stereotypes that are preventing you from growing in new directions. My personal Renaissance modestly consists of expanding my knowledge and skills as a woodworker, artist and writer. Whether your aspirations are to become a guitar playing neuroscientist like Buckaroo Bonzai or perhaps you believe that we’ve already seen The Last Days of the Polymath, it is difficult to argue that as individuals we have all reached our maximum potential. You have no doubt heard it said that we utilize less than 10% of our brain capacity throughout our lifetime.
The Renaissance Challenge
I put to you a personal challenge this day. Make a dent in that other 90% of your noggin’. If you are a microbiologist, learn how to sew your own clothes. If you are a plumber, grab your partner and learn ballroom dancing. If you are a farmer, learn how to build a web site to sell chicken eggs to local markets. If you are a tweeting/txting teenager, learn to write grammatically correct sentences in your native language. No matter who you are, or what label you seem to wear, prove to yourself and the rest of the world, that we all have the potential to become Renaissance men and women. Expand your knowledge. Expand your skills. Step out of your comfort zone and the deep trench of daily routine. Doing so will serve to enrich your life and the lives of those around you.