Slap Me Around For Focus

February 18, 2010 at 2:54 PM | Posted in Personal | Leave a comment
  I learned a couple of new words the other day.  One is "polymath." The others are didactic (and autodidactic), and dilettante, and junto.  Oh, and generalist.
  I would like to be considered a polymath, but truthfully I may be little more than a dilettante.  I aspire to at least the middle ground–am I a generalist, at least?
  I am fairly knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects, and most of that is auto-didactic.  Or at least–not learned in school.  What fields or skills do I have, what interests do I maintain, what things have I done that I can list as polymathic?
  Let’s start with writer.  Writer, poet, comic.  Cartoonist, too.  Now radio personality and producer.  Sure, why not?  What else you got?  Inventor?  I’ve thought of a few things.  Self-taught on the carpentry, I know that.  Of course, most of these are self-taught, so I have an equal skill in most of them.
  If I’m a carpenter then I’m also a mechanic.  I actually went to school for computers, so put down computer tech as well.  Cook?  Sure.  Not a chef by any means, but definitely a cook.
  Anything I’ve built as a carpenter I designed first.  Designer and architect.  How about my driving skills, and ability to get around?  What would you call that?  Hmmm.  I can read a map.  Cartography analyst, professional driver.
  Oh, let’s put down martial artist as well.  I have awesome nunchuk skills, and a blue belt in tae kwon do, so very long ago.  What other jobs have I had?
  Forklift driver.  I worked on a farm.  But I’m getting away from the brainy-type stuff here.  Leo (Da Vinci, not Dicaprio) had solid skills in intellectual areas.
  Let’s add mathematician.  I like math, I’ve had more math than a large percentage of the planet–Up to Engineering Calc III–and I like math.
  Likewise I’m a fan of science and history.  Can I truthfully call myself a historian, or a scientist?  What does it take to be a scientist?  Not much, apparently, if Al Gore considers himself one.  Do I have to write or create an original piece of work in the study of history to be a historian?  It is my aim to do that.  Does that count?  I’m not a published writer but I’m still a writer.
  I think alot about these things and others–does that make me a philosopher?  Aren’t we all…philosophers?
  The Junto of which I spake previously is the one Ben Franklin started.  The more I read of him, the more I am impressed.  Junto was a group, a club he started.  When he was only 21, he drew together learned friends and acquaintances, and selected a choice few to be a part of this think tank.  This brain-trust.  They gathered and discussed high moral and ethical issues, and the politics of the day, and other weighty issues. 
  I’d like to start a Junto, or be involved in one.  I wonder what I would have to add to the discussion?  Any thing of value?  I’ve read about Mensa groups, and they are full of brainiacs from a diverse background–perhaps that’s what it is like.  I know I’m smart enough to join, I just have to find my proof.
  Although I’m not a real specialist in any of these fields, generalist are important, too.  I read about the idea in a science fiction book written in the 50s, so it must be true.  Basically, the idea is this:  as a specialist, you have such a narrow range of study and knowledge that something that might be obliquely related to your field you will most likely miss because it isn’t right in front of you.  A generalist can look at a wide variety of topics and information and see relationships between them that would normally be missed.  From there, new avenues of study and discovery can be created.
  I’ve wanted to pursue all these things for some time, but have always been too distracted.  On one hand I know–I KNOW–that some of the great thinkers of the past, like Franklin, like Da Vinci–had ADD.  But also…man, they found a way to harness it, and work it to their advantage.
  That’s the difference between a polymath and a dilettante. 

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