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Ben Franklin vs Mozart

renaissance_soulFirst let me say that I am passionately against all self help books of any kind by any author whatsoever.  I haven’t read this book because it seems like a self help book and, as I’ve said, I’m against them but, I must say that I find the premise of this particular self help book, which I will never read, to be intriguing.

We celebrate the Renaissance man in theory but in practice we say things like jack of all trades, master of none.  Well, as someone who is interested in practically everything on the planet and has jacked around in many trades while mastering none of them, let me tell you that I get pretty tired of being accused of wasting my life and of attempts to reduce me to one thing.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking that I should focus on composition or radio or arts management or a hundred other things I like to do like read history, shoot pool and collect rare algae.

In the book, or so I’ve heard as I will never read it, Lobenstine makes a distinction between people like Ben Franklin who are interested in and good at many things, and people like Mozart who are hyper focused on one thing and have indisputably mastered it.

For example if they both had a concert coming up Ben Franklin, upon hearing that he had to promote it, might think “here’s another interesting thing I can learn” whereas Mozart might think, “why would I promote it?  I’m the composer.”

To me both points of view are valid.  There are people who specialize in promoting concerts so why not pair them with people who specialize in performing or composing music?  And yet as a person who finds it impossible to specialize I like to think that we’d be missing out if the world were full of specialists.

There’s something magical about the quixotic pursuit of devoting yourself to learning as much as possible, and doing as much as possible, within the lamentably short framework of one lifetime.

As I’ve said, I won’t read the book because I’m too busy jacking around to read self help but I’m glad that she wrote it and I hope others read it.  Now, off to my basket weaving class!



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