Thursday, April 22, 2004

Renaissance Men

In the Renaissance era, which started in the 14th century in Italy and the 16th century in Europe, a Renaissance man was a person considered to be interested in and a master of many differing fields of “work and knowledge.” However, as Wikepedia points out, “during the Renaissance, it was easier to be an expert in all fields, as the total sum of knowledge was considerably smaller than it is today.”

I begin this discourse because I believe that I’m a modern-day Renaissance man. This is NOT a pat on the shoulder: I say this not as a justification of my existance, but as an edification for those of you who feel mired in mediocrity, swathed in situational stagnation, or cantankerous about commonality.

Bare with me here.

The modern-day Renaissance man is a lost soul, when juxtaposed to those men of yore. Consider Leonardo da Vinci, whose birthday is a mere 5 days after mine. An expert in art, math, engineering, and other sciences, he was a day dreamer who rarely ever completed his projects. I read a fictional book that runs around Leonardo’s life and works a lot, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown is a really interesting read, though not always a hundred percent accurate. He takes a lot of very complex ideas and breaks them down into an easy read. One of the things Brown discusses is Leonardo’s invention that was perhaps the earliest form of public key encryption, a cylinder that required the write sequence to open. I’ll cover cryptography and encryption basics in another post.

Back from my digression, the modern-day Renaissance man: one who is knowledgeable in many fields on a superficial level, but excels in none individually. Let me give you an example: I can sit down with a theoretical physicist, a personal trainer, a mortgage broker, a computer scientist, a business manager, a writer/journalist, a musician, a photographer, a medical doctor, a theater director, an engineer, a CEO, a financial analyst, a geneticist, a psychiatrist, a sales associate, a boat captain, an aspiring film director, a teacher, a waitress, a veterinary technician, a masseur, a webmaster, an aspiring speech therapist, an actress, a bartender, a “nanny”, an aspiring advertising executive, and an EMT (not necessarily all at once), and I can discuss their professions on more than a layman’s level.

This is important, because almost all of these cover the friends that I have, and I often help them to intermingle.

I read a lot of books, have a lot of discussions, pursue grand conquests of knowledge through the extensive internet, and daydream of entrepreneurial achievement. I can manage finances and find answers to complex questions quickly, and digest that for others to understand with relative ease. I can advise and help people to see themselves in an entirely different light, and I’ve taught myself most of what I’ve learned in college. I write a blog.

I can’t graduate college on time, pick something I want to do, or follow the path that’s easiest. I can’t figure out what a normal sleep schedule is. I often can’t find my keys. I forget to feed my dogs twice a day.

I’m a Renaissance man.

I have no grand illusions of being a reincarnation of Leonardo. I’m still working on my stick figures. But I know he worshiped the Golden Ratio (1.618:1, found in almost everything we consider beautiful, and almost precisely in our bodies, too much to get into here, read The Da Vinci Code to find out more), and I know he was a daydreamer.

I’d bet money that he had ADD.

The irony of being a modern-day Renaissance man is that there is no glory in it. In fact, one is nearly forced to revel in mediocrity. Others excel in fields, make money, and enjoy doing what they do. They are consummate citizens, contributing to the world in their own way. I applaud them, and I envy them.

But to argue, our world is one of specialization. Like an exponential function, we increase precise knowledge at such a drastic rate that we approach an asymptote of the larger picture. This could cause trouble down the line if we keep outsourcing with greater frequency. Besides, what if you had a team of people building a house that were each so specialized and talented that they could create amazing pieces, but no one knew how to put it all together? Your bedroom might have a porch in it with a swimming pool holding the refrigerator in the bathroom.

It would be a little odd, to say the least.

So I say to those who are like me, in this frame, ensnared and confused, there may be hope for us yet. Maybe I adhere to false hopes, or maybe I’m entirely disillusioned about what I am and my aforementioned definition. Regardless, I hold hope for where my mind takes me, and the interesting ways I generally arrive at conclusions or new questions. I live an atypical life, and I enjoy it.

I hope that holds.

I’m a modern-day Renaissance man, and I hold good company.

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