The reader may feel that I am all over the map when it comes to my blog posts – and I have been advised that one should select one area of expertise or interest and stick to that.

However, I feel that I cannot do that; I have many interests and what angers me or makes me laugh or just makes me turn introspective on any given day varies.  I have often thought about the concept of specialization and the narrow focus of education and expertise.  We seem inordinately proud of our ignorance in so many areas due to our laser like concentration in one specialty.  Of course, most choose to describe this phenomenon not as a gross ignorance of many things, but an exceptionally extraordinary knowledge of one thing.

Maybe it is akin to the question “Is the glass half full, or is it half empty?”  Of course the correct answer to the question is both.  We are pre-supposed to answer one or the other and that is supposed to define our personality as either positive (good) or negative (bad).

We narrow our knowledge and our vision at our peril.  Today the world is facing danger from so many directions it is difficult to list them all; at the peril of seeming too “negative”.  Global warming, overpopulation, climate change, species extinction, frequency of earthquakes, mass produced unhealthy food, loss of clean water, overuse of antibiotics resulting in loss of effectiveness; I could go on, but I won’t.

I once read a biography of Benjamin Franklin. He seemed pretty universally liked and any time I heard him spoken of, I heard the term “Renaissance Man” ascribed to him.  So I wondered why that was such a good thing and one day looked the meaning up.  Let me give you a dictionary definition, taken from the website www.wiseGEEK.com

“A renaissance man (or woman) is a person who is skilled in multiple fields or multiple disciplines, and who has a broad base of knowledge.  The term renaissance man is largely based on the various artists and scholars of the European Renaissance, (starting in about 1450 CE), who pursued multiple fields of studies. Perhaps the quintessential renaissance man of this period was Leonardo Da Vinci, who was a master of art, an engineer, an anatomy expert (for the time), and also pursued many other disciplines with great success and aplomb.”

“In the actual Renaissance period, men who were educated aspired to become Renaissance men. They were expected to know several languages, understand philosophy and scientific teachings, appreciate literature and art, and further, to be deft sportsmen.”

I can’t help but think, as I listen to the news and do my own research, that if today’s experts were more broadly educated and aware of more than their own narrow field of study, then they would be aware when harm was being done by their work.  The “collateral damage” of oil spills, fertilizer from farms that is eventually washed to the sea, creating dead zones around the mouths of rivers, the damage DDT did to wildlife and non-targeted insect species.  The lists are endless.

Just think what our world would be like if all educated persons took pride in their knowledge of other cultures, the logic of philosophy and reason; the ability to see an argument from several sides, and in their humanity, and their relationship to all living things.

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