Living in a one-dimensional world.
The world is not what it used to be. Or, more specifically, PEOPLE are not what they used to be. It doesn't take much reading of history to note something odd about the people recorded there: many of them seem so much more diverse and capable than the typical modern human. Today, the world is peopled by one dimensional beings, able to do one thing, if that. Yesteryear, on the other hand, was made up of people of multiplicitous talents. They lived very diverse lives, excelling at many different things.
Perhaps I should remind you of the likes of the men of the past, that we no longer have. Copernicus, for instance, of the Heliocentric theory of the solar system, was, according to Wikipedia, a mathematician, astronomer, physician, quadrilingual polyglot, classical scholar, translator, artist, Catholic cleric, jurist, governor, military leader, diplomat and economist. Wikipedia notes that Leonardo da Vinci was a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, botanist and writer. Benjamin Franklin is remembered as a leading author, political theorist, politician, printer, scientist, inventor, civic activist, publisher and diplomat. Thomas Jefferson was a philosopher, author, lawyer, architect, musician, naturalist, botanist, inventor, engineer, statesman, diplomat, and political theorist - oh, and President of the United States.
Modern eminences, on the other hand, are, generally, one dimensional people. They are pop stars, who often don't write their own songs, but specialize in performing them. They are academics, so specialized that the readership of their target journals is measured in hundreds and their articles are only of relevance to a dozen people. They focus their entire lives on the tiniest corners of human knowledge and make the merest increments of progress. They are writers who, typically, cultivate one type of story line - the horror writer, the science fiction author, the vampire tale spinner, and so on - and do nothing else. They are actors, many of whom do only one type of role: the action hero, the bumbling oaf, the person with a dark secret etc. They are lawyers, who spend their lives dealing with one kind of argument on behalf of one type of client, all their lives long. They are TV presenters whose highest skill is insincerity and an easy smile. This is the world we live in. A world dominated by what would once have been seen as slivers of people, with mere suggestions of ability. Diversity of careers are not only absent, but discouraged. It is frowned upon to step outside of the domain for which one initially becomes known. An actor may not write without being viewed with some amusement; a scientist may not paint without eliciting smirks and frowns; a businessman may not be a poet, without people talking behind his back, in unflattering terms. Nowadays, everyone must safely be placed in a box with but a single label - clear, readily understood, almost stereotypical. People who wish to step outside of such constraints find that the modern world really resists them. The academic known in one field, who wishes to publish in another, may find a cool reception - or even open hostility that he should dare to speak of matters on which he is "unqualified" (as if a particular piece of paper is needed to allow anyone to think). The pop star who acts, is just not taken seriously, even if his or her performances are decent. Indeed, to stray into any field outside of the one in which one has become initially established is to evoke anything from coldness, to hostility, to being shunned, ignored or just met with amusement. There is the feeling that only those who have devoted their entire lives to a particular pursuit have a rightful place in it. Yet, this is absurdly not true. Any creative and intelligent person may be able to contribute to any area of human life, given the chance to do so. It is just that in the modern world, few are given such a chance because of the dominant belief that one must specialize in one thing and one thing alone.
Given the narrowness of modern life, in the sense that diversity of activity is difficult to achieve and is actively resisted by the society, I would say that few modern people are as interesting as the most interesting people of the past. Modern men are shallow and narrow, in experience, outlook and understanding. They each carry the smallest piece of the world around with them and that, perhaps, explains much that is wrong with this world. There are many things which become more difficult to achieve, when everyone is so narrow in their views and understandings.
I would like to see an end to the one dimensional world we live in, and a return to more plural, multi-dimensional times. Unfortunately, I do wonder if modern people have the intellectual substance to be able to do such a thing. It may be that such people are too uncommon, nowadays, for such a diverse culture to ever prevail again. We can, however, but live in hope.
(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to:
I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.
My Internet Movie Database listing is at: http://imdb.com/name/nm3438598/
Ainan's IMDB listing is at http://imdb.com/name/nm3305973/
Syahidah's IMDB listing is at http://imdb.com/name/nm3463926/
Our editing, proofreading and copywriting company, Genghis Can, is at http://www.genghiscan.com/
This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited. Use only with permission. Thank you.)