Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Deserts and Barbarians

I read an interesting passage today from a book called “Plain Living, High Thinking” In this chapter he was discussing the importance of self-culture in the area of reading and the like. He points out the errors in putting too much focus in one area and how it actually can cause you to know less. His point is, the person who devotes themselves to a single subject of study will never become wholly master even of that; because so close is the connection between the various branches and departments of human knowledge and they subtly run into or clash upon one another. In trying to become an expert one actually becomes extremely ignorant. He knows nothing because he knows little, or only what can be known about one subject without perspective of other things. He quotes Lord Lytton,
“To sail around the world, you must put in at many harbors, if not for rest, at least for supplies. Therefore I say to each person, as far as you can, partly for excellence in your special mental calling, and more importantly, for completion of your end in existence, strive while improving your one talent to enrich your whole capital as a person. It is by this way that you escape from that wretched narrow-mindedness which is the characteristic of every one who cultivates their specialty alone.”
He goes on to give an illustration I like that goes something like this;
“To clarify, let me say that whatever your calling, If you only cultivate that calling to the exclusion of all else, you will become as narrow-minded as the Chinese when they placed on the map of the world the Celestial Empire, with all its hamlets and villages in full detail, and outside the boundaries of the Empire they make dots and lines with the subscription, “To deserts unknown, inhabited by barbarians.”

It made me think how foolish a person would be if they pursued the position of a judge and only studied law without history or psychology. How could one judge justly without an understanding of mercy as seen in literature. Or could one play music without appreciating Fine Art, or an understanding of human nature? How would they appeal to the soul of the masses? On and on the illustrations go. One has only to travel to another country, to learn the U.S. isn’t the center of the world and they come home with a new appreciation for a once unknown race or culture.
The word enlighten presupposes we are in some darkness. Broadening our horizons, we know not how it can impact things we are busy doing.
Don’t you think?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think so too, very much. In my quest I want to sail to many harbours and stretch to wrap my feeble mind around things that I will never fully understand. In the same way that I want to understand my God, who I will never be able to fully understand. I know there are places, feelings, people and ideas that I have yet to even glimpse. I am a little hamlet who aims to venture outside that map. I will bring everything I am with me, but I will be open. Love it. -Matt

FCB said...

I'm glad you liked it, thought you might. Makes me eager to put faces and know hearts of those barbarians in the deserts.
Love Dad

BgArt said...

For me the joy of learning something is learning all the things that it's made up of.

I came to a decision a while ago that I didn't want to be an expert at one thing, I wanted to be really good at a buch of different things.

Thank you for posting that. Good stuff right there.