- “Jack of all trades, master of none” is the pejorative version of “renaissance man” who is, presumably, master of everything. A renaissance person is now conceptually impossible even for an immortal _ who could possibly know nor use all the knowledge that has accumulated over time? We could, of course, select categories _ a master flute player who is also a Nobel physicist and industrial tycoon _ but even the most outrageous of such fantasies ignore all the rest of human possibility.
- So the common wisdom is to give up breadth and simply be the best at some specialization and let everything else fall as it will. I think this is a disease of our culture, not merely in careers but also in daily life. Folks who narrow themselves into pure categories to fully enjoy the essence of perfection are giving up a large part of the simple joy of being. It is possible, for example, to enjoy wine or food without becoming a connoisseur of vintage and cuisine.
- Perhaps time spent in carefully cultivating nuance could be better utilized for modest appreciation of other worldly miracles. We resist this thought because then we would simply be one of the crowd, like everyone else, and this culture pushes hard to terrorize us about not being uniquely worthwhile.
- Darwinism has been twisted into all kinds of pretzels to explain and justify almost anything. “Survival of the fittest,” which is a perversion of “natural selection” attains the status of holy writ. We automatically think of “biggest” “best” “most agile” “best adapted.” Of course, most of the really specialized magnificently focused species are evolutionary dead ends, and die when their environment changes. Like some job categories these days.
- Consider our most successful evolved companions _ mosquitoes, cockroaches, rats, bacteria, fungi. Hardly specialized. Mosquitoes are pretty pesky things and seem not to care too much about which blood they feast on. If a particular bird species dies out, mosquitoes don’t starve. We should recognize that like them, we are happy generalists, and it is our lack of specialization _ not our ability to focus narrowly on problems _ that provides us true freedom.
- Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
- But perhaps “well” should be defined as “just good enough.”
- Everybody wants to be special, we are told. It’s a pillar of social control. Blue bloods always preach that they are in charge for a reason, even if that reason is simply that god or fate has been on their side. Lately they claim they are smarter. It’s always a justification for why they have more and everyone else has less. Once upon a time their needs were insatiable, but now there is a bit a trouble as all needs have generally been overfilled.
- At this point, elites sprouting ever more plumage look like sickly extremes of a genetic bell curve. How many pretty (expensive) tail feathers can they display? How does that make them more fit?
- Humans do not generate peacock feathers or saber-tooth fangs. Our singular adaptability for survival is our individual mind and our social skills, which we can adjust internally. Being happy with what we have, at least in an affluent society, may be a better survival strategy than frantically and neurotically racing to be at the head of the pack.
- Seagulls seem to be among the least specialized birds, or perhaps they are simply the best adapted to human environments. When other avian species that none of us ever encounter vanish, seagulls will still be around. Like most animals that exist near humans, their specialization is that they have none.
- As our current culture evolves, I believe our current high-strung never-sleep desperate patterns will self-destruct in either chaos or burnout. As machines replace all the necessary slavery of the agricultural age, the apparatus of that era _ which has now run amok _ becomes useless.
- I like to believe that our descendants, if any, will be more like sea
gulls than cockroaches. Flying free, always finding enough, enjoying mock crises, and strutting independently or riding tides peacefully however and whenever they wish.
Neither could comprehend the big human when he called to his mate “I hope little Sue Ellen has a great vacation upstate.” It’s doubtful Lurk will survive the week.
Middle is perfect.