Friday, 3 October 2014

The Daily Polymath

Found this old draft post. Posting it anyway.  It's still true.

I already have three blogs – one professional, one personal, and one for roller derby (plus sporadically used social media), but the problem with having anything online in a professional capacity is that everything you post or upload needs to link back somehow to that one specialism that you are trying to promote about yourself.  Most blogs have their core subject and they stick to it.  Of course this makes very good sense if you’re hoping to attract people to your site because they want that one thing that you are providing.  However as an outlet for self-expression it can become very stifling, as you can rarely say what you really feel about something – you have to present your ‘public face’ instead.  And right now I think a bit of self-expression would do me good.
I’m in the middle of a course (not a qualification course, more a personal development course) that is run by my church.  It’s called the Big Year, and at the end of our first term I’m seeing why.  The aim is twofold: To learn more about God, who he is, what he’s like, and how to be in a relationship with him.  To learn more about ourselves, who we are, what are we like, how do we work that out in life.  There have been exciting, fun, thrilling, revelatory moments, and also there have been crushing self-discoveries, numerous frustrations, and a lot of crying.  And that’s okay (we decided this as a group early on.  No one is allowed to apologise if something hits them in the metaphorical gut and they burst into tears.  Crying about something just means it matters to you).  I’ve certainly learned a lot about myself already, and God too, but I’m in the middle of processing a bunch of stuff and we’ve just finished for Christmas.  I need to dump this somewhere and sift through it or I’m going to lose my nut.
So… Ta-Dah!  Un blog post.
The Polymath concept is down to the fact that I’ve always found it difficult to do this thing that society seems to suggest you should do – be an expert in something.  In one thing.  Be THE expert for that thing.  But I find my brain doesn’t work that way.  I love too many things, I care about too much, all at once.  There are times when I’m totally at war within myself as different heartaches fight it out and I don’t know what to prioritise, which path to follow, what career to pursue.  It was this post a friend linked me to that suddenly made me see the problem.
I’m a polymath.  I think most people are.  No one has just one thing they care about, we all have multiple things in different combinations.  My challenge isn’t necessarily to become an expert in one subject, but to work out how to combine the multiple things that stir me.  To work out how to live all this out.  To be alive in today’s world is to be painfully aware of everything going on around you to an unprecedented level thanks to the arrival of digital technology.  A few internet searches can provide you with more horror than a person every used to see in a lifetime.  But then there are also funny videos of cats, and moving stories, and amusing cartoons of Star Trek characters in crossovers with the X-Men.  I used to watch the news but these days, at the ripe old age of 25 I only check in with one news-peddling website for ten minutes tops.  The upshot of all this, for a brain like mine, is the sense that some kind of engine is running on all cylinders inside your head, but with that engine not in any gear there is nowhere to direct all that energy and you feel sure it might tear itself to pieces like a trapped rocket.  There are times when I think the best thing would be to simply withdraw, go and live as a hermit in a cave somewhere and pretend none of it was happening.  So much of it is helplessness.  One moment you’re aware of being a unique human being whose passion and intelligence could change (at least some part) of the world for the better, if only people would listen to you.  The next moment you see yourself as one of 7,000,000,000 other humans.  Relatively privileged, to be sure, but within your own culture still relatively powerless.  For example, I live paycheck to paycheck as it is, and the way I’d like to live would probably give be even less economic clout.  Therefore less clout as a consumer.  Therefore, in this materialistic world, less relevant or able to affect change.  But then as a Christian I’m challenged on both those things, on all those things.  Does God see me as someone potentially important, or one of a mass, or both?  Where does his clout come into all this?
How does one be an environmentalist consumer feminist illustrator Christian historian tech-savvy/tech-suspicious theologian narrative-loving car-owning cyclist settled adventuring geeky outdoorsy brave nervous anti-consumerist non-hippy counter-cultural-but-still-wants-to-be-liked tomboy woman in the world today?  Surely there’s a job title for that  (Why must it always come down to a job title?)
Hell if I know.  That’s what’s keeping me up at 3:45 am.  That’s what this is all about.

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