Friday, February 01, 2008

"Know something about everything and everything about something"
T.H. Huxley
My heroes are Polymaths. Polymaths are the people who have strived to know something about everything and very often everything about one thing...
which is probably impossible in the Internet Age.

According to Wikipedia, "The expression derived from the ideal in Renaissance Humanism that it was possible to acquire a universal learning in order to develop one's potential that covered both the arts and the sciences without necessarily restricting this learning to the academic fields."

Most people would recognise people like Leonardo da Vinci, Aristotle, Isaac Newton, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Schweitzer, Umberto Eco and Isaac Asimov as Polymaths.

I found THIS fabulous BBC article that highlighted some interesting points.
-genuine Polymaths don't show off
-the title is given not self appointed
-they refuse to be pigeon-holed
-the competition is much greater now in the Information Age

"One argument is that a polymath is not a state of being,
but a state of becoming."

I love that!

"Being a polymath is not what one knows now,
but what one desires to know;
not a matter of intelligence,
but a matter of intellectual and creative ambition and curiosity."

I was reading about HOWARD BLOOM (The Lucifer Principle, Global Brain) who abandoned a life as an Academia Nut and became a PR Guru in the music biz. He cashed out and is writing and lecturing to students about putting the BIG PICTURE together.

He summed up his mission in a Psychology Today interview with Nando Pelusi.
"I'm trying to get them to put emotion, passion, and reason all together. I'm trying to get them to use ART as one antenna, SCIENCE as another antenna, to feel out the darkness."

The BBC article noted that perhaps we need Polymaths now more than ever to organise all of the information swirling above our heads in cyberspace.
I certainly want to find more of these creatures. More than anything, I desire to see how they combine all of this data (0's & 1's) and turn it into something that I can mentally digest. I will call that place my Oasis of Homeostasis.

I like to believe that most Bloggers are genuinely curious about the BIG Picture and perhaps better informed than the great unwashed. Personally, I no longer feel like a mushroom sitting in the dark covered in sh*t. Although you must use caution, because anyone can say anything about anything out here.
Don't you think that most bloggers become polymaths? Aren't we discovering something about everything by reading and absorbing the collective knowledge of others?
Before I check out, it is imperitive that I have a workable cosmology that I can hand to my children and say, "This is what I found You're it!"
Aren't you empowering your inner polymath whenever you read your favorite blogs?


  1. I am attempting to catalogue the bare arses of all the male bloggers in the Blogosphere.

    As you can see, I've added a new one to my list today.

    Someday you'll all thank me.

  2. This kind of describes me to a T. I sincerely hope that you are not having fun at my expense.

    Well, you can call me poly and I teach Math!


  3. I am learning more here than what I learned during my 5 stupid years doing Msc.

  4. I think I might very well be a budding polymath, if for no other reason than I am not really an expert in ANY one thing, but seem to have at least a hint about just about anything you could mention.

    I think it is necessary to forsake the formal stuff they shovel at you in the halls of academia and simply head off in your own pursuit of knowledge. I feel my greatest achievement so far is being able to know what to accept at face value and what to call bullshit on. I haven't perfected it yet, but I seem to be close. I don't think you can be an independent until you can question liberal assumptions, and I don't think you can have a brain worth thinking with if you accept conservative dogma.

    Last but not least, you cannot accept "God" and logic at the same time. But you can develop a pretty good compromise if you allow yourself to question. Blind faith leaves you just that....BLIND.

  5. Have you got any cheese to go with that cracker?

    I'll try the blue vein!

  6. Exactly, man. A great analysis and conclusion with what I agree with and believe to be true: bloggers are the world's new polymaths.

    And not just about expanding knowledge, but also expanding feelings and universality.

    It's the new Glob(logging)al Village.

  7. Anonymous5:48 p.m.

    We certainly are when we read your blog, homey :)

    My old maths teacher was one of those people that knows a little bit about absolutely everything. He also seemed to have met more or less EVERYONE too. I don't understand how this happens, but if I achieve nothing else in life I want to go to the grave knowing that I am stuffed at least half as full with useless general knowledge as Stephen Fry.

  8. Yay I finally got to the blogsmooch.

    I'm with fathorse and all your other fellow polymaths. Edification is right here, baby.

    I like this way of looking at people. Makes more sense than the rational/emotional divide, i.e. you can be either of those and still a polymath.

  9. I think I'd be insulting Leonardo Da Vinci and the like if I even suggested I had an inner polymath.

    I tend to read the blogs of those I can relate to on some level and those who write about things that interest me at this time. I usually learn something, but I wouldn't go as far as saying the experience is turning me into a polymath.

  10. I sometimes feel like I know nothing about an awful lot of things. Or very very little about very few things. I'm not sure!

  11. He love,

    Everyday you let us all in. It is interesting to me how deep you go when truly interested in a subject.

    But to answer your question. I think you are right. As we read, we learn. Probably things we never would have had we never blogged in the first place.

    I will leave this comment with a huge thank you for the many things you have brought to my attention and the things you have yet to.

    Soft love,

  12. I am only familiar with the other Bloom, Harold Bloom, professor of classic studies who declared the dumbing down of America and author of such books as How To Ready and Why. There is so much trash everywhere. The American publishing houses publish books based on commercial values.

    Wait a minute, I am digressing. Some people are just smart and know a lot of things because they truly love information.

    I read many blogs and I leave comments and return if I find the blog interesting. There is so much trash out there. Unsubstanciated information, really just mere opinions dishonestly passed on as fact. Our society is getting dumber. Just watch the news and television. People do not read anymore. Very sad.

  13. hell yeah. thats why i am against any effort to 'civilize' the web. i need this! all of it! raw and bleeding, inaccurate, misspelled and ranty, overwritten, incomprehensible and opaque. this is the ultimate polymaths playground!

    i am glad someone finally gave mr. dicaprio his due. his 'godzilla and the virgin mary' brought me to my knees.

  14. ahhhh mental multitasking at it's finest..

    My weird goal in life is to be able to walk into a museum and add something to every side, especially with ( one day) my kids. That would be a hoot...

    I remeber being a lot younger and believing my father to be the greatest source of infomratuion in the known universe, he would definately fit your polymath mould.. 50 seconds left in an internet cafe... you will just have to pretend this had a point....

  15. This girl is automatic
    She's sytematic
    She's polymathic
    She's greased lightening!

    go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go

    ....or maybe not

  16. systematic, in other words :)

  17. grumblant4:14 a.m.

    I think that anna's onto the right stream. Picking up a little info is
    a nice bene, while one's already preoccupied with not getting their Pineal gland trod into the sawdust. As to the rest? Increased sorrow, accordin' to reliable sources. Oy! Ta Hell wi' visual acuity, dove il fuc**ng bar, HE?

  18. Ah yes - absolutely.
    Being a polymath is nothing to do with doing well on Mastermind or University challenge (thank god).
    Getting info, ideas and pictures of arses from blogs is an ideal way to become the next best thing to Leonardo or GBS.

  19. DEFINITELY! I've grown in knowledge in ways that I can never explain...the experience is priceless! And my 5yrs in UNI was shit..BLOGS is where they teach real lessons abt life.


  20. Keshi - "blogs" is a plural form, so you need "blogs are" instead of "blogs is"... which taught you grammar, uni or blogs? ;)

  21. Anonymous4:50 a.m.

    When one of my sons was 5, he'd tell people who asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he'd say "I want to be a renasissance man." Now he draws, paints, plays several instruments, makes his own bows and arrows, and reads microbiology text books for fun. I think he may be on his way. His competetion? His little brother , who is hot on his heels.

    Blogging does expand you, I think. Socially and intellectually. Although I'm not sure I felt much like a mushroom before I started.

  22. I suppose you deserve the award I bestowed upon you!

    Come, pick it up!

  23. Excellent article and yes you're right. I like the point about intellectual curiousity being the defining quality of a polymath

  24. Stace: Beware the inner snark. English might not be this person's first language.

    It seems to me that Polymaths require a certain degree of multi-talent in order to be identified as such. Assimilation of eclectic knowledge without putting it to multiple productive ends seems insufficient. I have taken drawing and music lessons for example, but I lack the drive to hone these skills into any kind of edge, sharp or otherwise. Perhaps talent is only a matter of will and perseverance, coupled with the available real estate in your brain.

    I thoroughly enjoy the intellectual music of other people's brains. It both saves me research time and points me in new directions.

  25. I'm empowering my outer dilettante.

  26. shhhh shutup Stace! hahaha!


  27. mj,
    Quite frankly all of those man butts don't do a thing for me and I am beginning to wonder when you will give the Ladies a chance?

    You are a perfect example and the math teaching thingamabob is the icing on the cake.

    Free tuition here, what a deal eh?

    THE mike,
    Well if you are not feeding your mind than what the hell are you doing here anyway? It is THE organ.
    We are our brains..when the brain is gone we are gone. So it stands to reason that you need to flex it if you want to stay healthy.

    Fromage pour vous? So you think that this is cheesy? Ha! It is super cheesy if it you take it the wrong way.

    winky wankerpants,
    We are like space explorers..
    on a mission to explore new worlds,
    to seek out new life and new civilisations;
    to boldly comment what no man has done before!

    I would rather be cremated than stuffed.

  28. spentrails,
    Tell it Sistah, tell it!
    You can even be charming OR tedious and still be a polymath.

    Leonardo would have loved you because you are curious about Life and People. That's all that it boils down to...some folks are just interested in you hadn't noticed.

    We all do. The difference is that you noticed the disparity between what you know and what you think that you should know or would like to know!

    Thank You. I am astounded (but not surprised) that this blogosphere allows us to connect like this and share ideas. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop because it is just too good to be true.

    Very astute observation. There is a growing disparity betwixt the informed (those with access to information) and those without. Even though the great unwashed (general public) seems to have lost it's desire to uphold certain educational standards...from goegraphical to grammatical data...there is a greater sense of self awareness that has spilled into the obssession column..OK I'm not going to dig my way out of this.
    There is a growing chasm between knowledge based groups. Bill Murray said that there are two kinds of people..those who like Neil Diamond and those who don't.

    first nations,
    I like all of the crap too. It makes you work for your reward. I like the fact that anybody can say (almost) anything but you still need to dissect it. That's half of the fun!
    Don't get me wrong about Leo. I love just about anything that he has done. He is the REAL deal.

  29. aidan.
    HOLA! You are a classic polymath and I have no doubt that you could walk anyone through the Smithsonian and have something pertinent to add at each display.
    Glad to see you mate..can't wait for you to get back on the horse!

    go greased lightning!
    let's do a medley..
    stranded at the drive-in,
    branded a fool.
    what will they say,
    monday at school...

    I got chills,
    they're multiplyin'
    and i'm losin' contro-ol.

    OK this could take awhile.
    great goofy songs eh?

    Yes a nod to Solomon. All is vanity. "The book of Eccliastes emphatically proclaims all of our actions to be inherently
    "vain", "futile", "empty", or "meaningless," depending on translation, as the lives of both wise and foolish men end in death.

    While Solomon clearly promotes wisdom as a means for a well-lived earthly life, he is unable to ascribe eternal meaning to it.
    In light of this perceived senselessness,
    Solomon suggests that one should enjoy the simple pleasures of daily life, such as eating, drinking, and taking enjoyment in one's wife and work."

    To me the most 'honest' book in the whole thing...especially 9:11

    11"I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but TIME and CHANCE happeneth to them all."

    I should try to use happeneth in a sentence every day.
    WOW did I just do that?

    Yes we need to take it all in and decipher it. Photos of big, hairy butts sort of balances out a posting on the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act of 1930...

  30. keshiroo,
    To be fair out here we definitely seek out things that are interesting to us..not things that somebody else has decided that we need to know. I think that we learn a lot because we are's interactive.

    Unfortuunately for many of us Anglisch puritans the morphing of the great whore that our language is has gone far beyond repair. The very reason that English won the language lottery is because of it's flexibility and insatiable apetite to absorb words form other languages.

    Some day soon, all words, will be English words.

    citizen of the world,
    You were obviously curious about Life before this as was I. My point was that it is an incredible way to share what you have learned and find other searchers...on a global a format that can be in real time! That is cool.

    I am pleased that you would consider me..especially since many of my regular lowbrow tangents are often met with such taciturn disapointment.
    Thank You.

    crafty green poet,
    HEY YOU! Curiousity is the spice of life. Without it we are wasting the 3 pound organ holding our ears apart. Curiousity may have killed the cat, but it made us learn to walk upright to look around the savannah and wonder where the hell the Lions were!

    In the classic sense of the title absolutely. Most of the GIANTS were able to utilize what they had learned and master several areas of expertise...but this is what became known as Genius. Polymath is still a hefty moniker and not one to lightly bandy about but the spirit of the searching is more of what I was trying to get across.

    I'm actually relieved that someone called me on it.

    For you some 10cc
    "Life is a minestrone
    Served up with parmesan cheese
    Death is a cold lasagne
    Suspended in deep freeze
    Im leaning on the tower of pisa
    Had an eyeful of the tower in france
    Im hanging round the gardens of madison
    And the seat of learning
    And the flush of success
    Relieves a constipated mind
    Im like a gourmet in a skid row diner
    A fitting menu for a DILLETTANTE"

    only song off the top of me head with dilettante.

    You're a good sport..we both knew what she meant. You Aussie gals are delicious.

  31. every single day i reckon!!!!!!


Danke für das Kommentieren/Gracias por comentar/Merci du commentaire/Вы для комментария/Thank You for commenting/Σας ευχαριστώ για το σχολιασμό/Grazie per commentare/Tak for kommentaren...

click yer cursor matey...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...