As a young man two years out of college, I still find myself wildly interested in everything there is to know in this world. I believe the status of “Renaissance Human” is something to aspire to, and this blog will explore what it takes and what it means to bring the idea of the well-rounded person into contemporary times. Here I plan to investigate skills necessary to be functional in today’s world, and knowledge, old and new, which should not be overlooked. There will be plenty of posts from my own head, but I will also be inviting some guest-bloggers and acting as curator of other blog posts I believe to be important.
When my grandfather died in the spring of 2002, I was allowed to go to his apartment and pick some keepsakes by which to remember him. I chose two specific things: his wallet because he spoiled his grandchildren unabashedly, which meant the wallet was ever-present, and his Swiss Army pocket watch, which was held in a small leather pouch instead of having the gold or silver face cover most people think of when they think pocket watch.
There were many things in his apartment to choose from, but something remained evident: he did not leave anything to a single person, except one. To his oldest daughter, my mother, he left the 60-volume Encyclopedia Britannica Great Books of the Western World. My grandfather was an aeronautical engineer, a paratrooper in the Army, and a GE man in the Mad Men era. His only possession which he deemed valuable enough to leave to his eldest child was, in essence, a liberal arts education and the idea we are always able to continue learning.
Times have changed a lot since my grandfather bought the 60-volume set, and now knowledge like that is more accessible than ever. Yet, we live in a time where specialization is valued, and experts are kings. I do believe both of these things are important for progress, but I don’t believe we should sacrifice holistic knowledge and learning in our everyday lives for the sake of constant forward motion.