Wednesday, 20 June 2012
Most folks have one field of endeavour that they are very good at, some excel. A natural born knack for numbers, words, skilled labour, sports, music, physical toil, we all have something we do well. Generally smart people are rare, those who can understand and employ a range of skills. Renaissance Humans if you will.
This is an era of specialization, there isn't much call for the generally smart person. We tend to call in a specialist to take care of all we don't do well so we can concentrate on what we do well. This has lead to a fragmented society, no one understands what anyone else does. Work is so much of who we are, more and more we understand only those who do what we do, or who work in related fields, social circles are becoming ever smaller and limited in scope.
Being generally smart is not a paying trade. Some of the smartest guys I've known washed dishes for a living, read everything they could get their sore and tired hands on in their time off. It is often a lonely path, no one knows which pigeon hole to stuff that pigeon into.
The odd thing is that being generally smart isn't so difficult. It requires application, an old fashioned, out of date concept. Being generally smart simply requires the application of the same approach that helped you understand one field of endeavour to other, less familiar fields. Anyone can do it, few bother. Why bother? There is no real return in our culture, better to specialize, to narrow, to have others call you in to fix their specialist problem and cash in.
The generally smart, the Renaissance Humans, tend to be loners, watching the world, learning all as they go. Occasionally they find each other, form their own small caste. They are the people who wish they were born in a different time and place, the drifters, the melancholy.
When this culture collapses, as all cultures do, let us hope some of the generally smart people survive. We will need them then.