Where have all the polymaths gone?

Categories: Latest News,MMI 2015 Reflections

Nikolaus_Kopernikus_2The other day with the other interns, we had the very privileged experience of sitting down with a most well-read Anglican thinker. The symbols were brought to life by him and scripture could be recited at will. He was aware of all the church’s facets, its symbols and minutiae.

It was all lost on me, however. My problem, ultimately.

It fell into a wider range of issues I had been tackling, however: a friend’s reticence to discuss art due to shaky knowledge of underlying theories, a DJ friend intimating that Jamie XX might not quite be elite, or my concern that Piketty will no longer be relevant when I am done reading his brick of a book. I am comfortable with not knowing much about anything – I am more worried about any blind celebration of savants.

Surely both this and this are valuable.

Granted – there will presumably not be another perfect Renaissance man (or woman). Yet the pursuit, and the memetic discoveries which therefrom spring, surely still holds value. The pursuit can be made difficult, however, by erudite educators who don’t make their knowledge accessible to a larger audience than their own brainy circle, resulting in a watered-down version for the masses.  Assuming all minds are made (relatively) equal, one couldn’t reach the apex of two separate fields – one needs mediators. This might also help us feel less disconnected.

Large amounts of students are receiving degrees in the same fields. This competition leads to dropping-out or low achievement. Perhaps a celebration of polymathy, of non-expert connectors, would help bridge different fields and help these students uncover a niche of their own. Cross-pollinated education would seemingly  exponentially raise the potential for discovery – but I’m no expert.


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