The Death of Renaissance Man

Sometime in the last generation Renaissance Man passed away. Also known as Polymath,Da Vinci 800 X 1020 for blog he lived for almost 2,400 years. The cause of death was apathy and specialization.

He was the child of Reason and Knowledge. His greatest achievement was ethical egoism.

His illegitimate children Specialized Man, Minimum Man, and Social Networker survive him.

Aristotle, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and a long list of polymath relatives predeceased him.

His passing was not noticed and there will be no funeral. Everyone is too busy texting, tweeting, and face-booking.

Nor will there be any memorial funds established.

Renaissance Man, unlike Social Networker who collects “Like’s,” “Fans,” and “Followers,” acquired knowledge and skill across a wide and varied spectrum of human experience including, among other fields, philosophy, history, political science, physics, economics, engineering, music, and art.

Not only was Renaissance Man well versed in all these subjects but he was expert at the practical application of this knowledge into his everyday life. Along with his quest for knowledge and the artistic, he rounded out his life by being physically fit.

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 This post has been sitting unfinished in my computer for over a year.

 Originally I titled it, Specialized Man, but somehow lacked the inspiration to complete it.

The theme was; as a society we have become so narrowly specialized; having abandoned most competencies beyond what is required in our jobs or careers, that we are not truly living a good life. Additionally we have adapted a “if the minimum isn’t good enough it wouldn’t be the minimum” mentality. Instead of continuous personal growth our society is becoming a social network where everyone must consult with their peers on even the most trivial decisions because individuals don’t know what to do.

Being busy with so many projects, I had forgotten about this article.

Then last week I read a post by Paul Magnanti, Thru-Hikers: Specialized outdoors knowledge, where he compared the very specialized skill of hiking one of America’s famous long distance trails, versus a full breadth of outdoor competencies. The article was not meant to be critical of anyone or anything, just his observations and his own experience and journey from a long trail thru-hiker of the Appalachian Trail and his personal growth afterwards. It is worth a read. To me it is a metaphor of our modern society.

Engaging in an online exchange of thoughts in this thread on Backpackinglight.com, Mags replied to one of my posts with this wonderful quote by Robert A. Heinlen:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

This is the competent man. The renaissance man. The polymath. And I mourn his passing.

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