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I was listening to NPR this morning in the car, and something I've always kinda known really crystallized in my head guts.

Take all the written works available today, from the Library of Congress or anywhere. Pare them down to only the ones in English, or maybe French, so I'd have a shot at comprehending them without learning a new language first. Apply the most rigorous "What Rachel Would Find Really Neat" criteria to them, and rate them accordingly. Finally, skim off the top 1% of that.

I still would never be able to read and think about all of that, if I lived to be really old. It keeps me up at night. It's why I'll never really be an expert in anything. I don't know if it's ADD or just some kind of insidious Generalists Disease. My brain can't resist shiny, neat ideas. And it can't focus on a single idea for more than a couple of hours at a time, tops.

Finish your degree, they tell me. Right. In what? Anatomy and kinesiology? Literature? Women's studies? Botany? Political Science? IT? Graphic design? Research and statistics? Physics? Library science? Costume design? Medicine? Religion?

I'm dead serious. It's an actual problem. A bad one. What's the opposite of myopia? It's that. It sucks.

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
joanarkham
Sep. 11th, 2007 04:29 pm (UTC)
I'm the same way, I think. I know a little bit about a lot of stuff, and I have periodic obsessions, but nothing lasts for long.

It seems to me that a "classic" education led to a well-educated gentleman or lady having a much wider scope of knowledge than is currently common. Even compared with when I was in high school (not that long ago, dammit) kids today are being trained to keep their focus narrow, at younger and younger ages.

Plus, what about all those samurai who were expected to learn flower-arranging and poetry?

Am I babbling?
fenriss
Sep. 12th, 2007 12:33 am (UTC)
I don't think you're babbling :) It's interesting that students are being encouraged to focus narrowly. I wonder what effect that'll have on the future work force. I wonder how it'll change the way society as a whole thinks. But I'm way to tired right now to do any speculating.

oletheros
Sep. 11th, 2007 04:45 pm (UTC)
you have eclectic interests. hell, i have eclectic interests as well. it happens. the trick is figuring out how to make all of those disparate fascinations stick together somehow (or, at least, well enough to satisfy you). hell, it's taken me thirty-some years to get close.
serendipity9000
Sep. 11th, 2007 05:26 pm (UTC)
There is this book "I could do anything if I only knew what it was" by Barbara Sher. In it she talks about how there are generally two types of people - divers and skimmers. The classic example of a diver is a classical pianist. Pick one thing - dedicate your life to it. Then there are the people like you and me - the skimmers. We like tasting it all - everything is interesting. So the plan is to pick a career (and the schooling to get you there) that will support your skimming nature. I feel lucky that I stumbled into building custom databases - it meant that each new job was learning everything about how some new business worked.

When choosing what to go to grad school for I picked library science (actually an archives program in an MLS program) exactly because I couldn't pick one topic. I wanted to extend my credentials so I could keep learning new stuff forever - and have a job in which that never stops. So far so good.

So I don't think you have ADD - I think you are a skimmer who hasn't found a perfect path. The example job that the book mentions for a skimmer is being a journalist - frequent new topics all the time!

Good luck.. I recommend you take a look at the book (http://worldcatlibraries.org/wcpa/isbn/0733611141)

Jeanne
fenriss
Sep. 12th, 2007 12:37 am (UTC)
Funny. I have read that book, and thought of it when I was making this post. I thought about how Sher says that being a "skimmer" isn't a bad thing, and that those of us with the tendency have our own strengths. I think I should probably re-read it. And I'll consider you're comment a vote in favor of finishing my degree in library science :)

Also, HI!!!! So happy to hear from you. Hope you're well.
eac
Sep. 11th, 2007 05:34 pm (UTC)
Finish your degree, they tell me. Right. In what?

In something that you think you could enjoy just for the time you were studying it. Bonus if it lends you a skills set that you could use for work later. Basically, don't think of a degree as terminal, because you know that you're going to move on to studying something else and then something else and then something else. :)

Also, I'm convinced that generalism is an asset, overall, even if the systems we have for society don't encourage it.
fenriss
Sep. 12th, 2007 12:37 am (UTC)
Thanks. I know it can be. I think I'm just having a pessimistic day.
2501
Sep. 11th, 2007 05:39 pm (UTC)
I so understand where you're coming from. It's hard to spend too much time studying one thing because you think about all the other things you're not learning/doing at the same time.

I find that no matter what I pick up and read these days, I wind up finding connections between them that I didn't expect. (I don't know if you have read these two books or not so I'm summarizing enough to illustrate a point) I just recently finished Douglas Hofstadter's I am a Strange Loop, which puts forward his theory of individual identity, and as a derivative theory, how we percieve the "internalities" of other people by building little working models of them in our heads that live there in the same (but much simpler) way as our own "real" consciousness. Right now, I'm just finishing up Martha Stout's The Sociopath Next Door which basically says there are a lot more sociopaths in our society than we want to believe, and discusses thoughts about dealing with it. She speaks a lot about how the basic cause of sociopathy is an inability to recognise the concerns/emotions/internalities of other people as "real", which leads to a lack of any feelings of conscience. Of course, having just read Hofstadter's book, it's interesting to try to see how his theory could apply to the situation of sociopaths--is their internal "loop" incapable of hosting those secondary loops that allow someone to model the interalities of others, and that is why they cannot at all experience feelings of guilt or conscience?

Also having recently read a few books about our current political situation, it's hard not to see that pretty much every single thing Stout says about sociopaths is pretty clear in a great number of members of the Republican party these days, including pretty much every one at the top (Bush, Cheney, Gonzales, (Rumsfeld), (Delay), etc).

Everything is pretty much tied together with everything else, in some way. If you keep your net wide for information, you may spot connections that other people who are more specialized may not.
fenriss
Sep. 12th, 2007 12:50 am (UTC)
Very interesting stuff. I like Hofstadter a lot, so I'll certainly look up that title. And I guess I know that being a generalist has it's benefits, but most of the time, I don't have the energy to make it work very well for me.
chadu
Sep. 11th, 2007 07:21 pm (UTC)
What's the opposite of myopia?

Your-opia. Or, more intriguingly, utopia...

(Hyperopia = farsightedness.)

CU
parchmentheart
Sep. 12th, 2007 12:06 am (UTC)
*hug* I get so frustrated with school by the end of a semester because I'm "done" with the subject long before the class is over.
I like chadu's "utopia" answer.
Why not write for your major? I liked your Stargate fic. Most people don't work in thier undergrad majors, I've heard.
Then later for fun and/or profit you can change your topics at will, keep as many pots simmering as you want?
fenriss
Sep. 13th, 2007 03:22 am (UTC)
Thanks, sweetie. Yeah, I figure the "multiple pots" method will be what I go with. I don't really have a choice :) I'll eventually get to the degree. I really crave learning, and I do loads of research and reading on my own, so it's a waste not to be putting that effort toward a degree. *hugs back!*
nina_ds
Sep. 12th, 2007 03:56 am (UTC)
I've done everything from cosmology to dance (actually, really not so much of a leap, as far as Shiva and I are concerned!), and I found a niche in the humanities. These days, a lot of the critical theory takes from everywhere. It's a path in, but it doesn't have to be narrow at all. In fact, one can go deep into something by coming at it from a different angle. I found physics to be immensely useful while theorizing film!

fenriss
Sep. 13th, 2007 03:23 am (UTC)
actually, really not so much of a leap, as far as Shiva and I are concerned!

Heh. Cute!

jgcr
Sep. 12th, 2007 05:37 am (UTC)
this is why we need to upload our brains into Great Computer before we keel over. more time for reading!
fenriss
Sep. 13th, 2007 03:24 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah. I've been waiting to be a brain-in-a-box all my life. Come on, science, make with the brain boxes!
greengirl7020
Sep. 16th, 2007 08:59 am (UTC)
why not look into auditing a bunch of classes see which ones you are interested at the time- who says you have to pick -do them all you are a smart creative person - create your own path- why fight yourself so what if you cant focus on one thing- become a road scholar or something - be brilliant in everything- try some classes on line so you can do them when you want to do them - make yourself happy - do what you want - or at least just try it it can be done - just find a program you like- I think you can do it - it doesn't hurt to try - you wont break your brain- you are wonderful - Hugs!!
duckmonster
Nov. 19th, 2007 08:12 pm (UTC)
It's a long, boring day at work, so I am reading back through the first page (from my perspective) of your LJ. I hope you don't mind.

Anyway, I vote Library Science. :) You get a smattering of things, with it. And then you go work in a library, where there is everything! At least, that's my plan. (I'm an engineer/consultant, and I'm REALLY tired of it.)

This generalist problem is on my mind, a lot, lately. I worry that I'll do this library thing and get sick of that, too, after a couple of years. (Maybe our ennui works on different time scales, but I theorize that it's the same disease, nonetheless. I just don't have the guts to change my course as often as I ought to.) I worry that I'm going to change jobs every 2-3 years--less, if I can--and drag poor Dale halfway around the country in the process (or let him keep me where we are, at any given point in time, and quietly be angry at him for that).

If you think of a solution, I'm interested to hear it.
fenriss
Nov. 20th, 2007 12:00 am (UTC)
Yeah, library science is high in the running. Seems like a good way to keep changing the content of what I work on. I don't necessarily think it's bad to be interested in a wide variety of topics, but I do get frustrated with myself sometimes for being so flighty.

Oh, and I certainly don't mind a bit that you're reading through my LJ. I'm flattered!
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )