Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Many (Modest) Skills or Expertise?

Imagine that humans are created as adults on God’s assembly line — there’s no childhood in this conception. Each new man or woman is inspected by the quality assurance supervisor (QAS) once assembled, and then its consciousness switch is turned on so that the QAS can ask her/him: “Do you want to be modestly skilled at many things or very skilled at one?”

You have no idea of the consequences of the decision you must make because you have no experience yet. What would you choose?

I clearly chose option one. I have earned income as a high school teacher, stage manager, actor, marketing executive, playwright, screenwriter, administrator, visual artist, art gallery director, theatre manager, cultural planner and university teacher. And I envy those who made the other choice.

They are the people who move me to tears. They are the people whose stories I love to read. They are my heroes and without them my life would be far less passionate.

My childhood heroes were Mr. Fletcher (my grade five teacher), Jesus, Julius Caesar, Eleanor Roosevelt and Joan of Arc. Then, in college, literary heroes fuelled my imagination and desire. Then came thespian scientific genii. I’ve been particularly smitten by Yeats, Gerard Manly Hopkins, Simon Winchester, Oliver Sacks, William Smith (father of geology) and Robert Fitzroy (the captain of Darwin’s Beagle). (Sorry about the absence of female heroes here; I truly love women, as my friends know.) Now culinary wizards are inspiring me. 

I get bored easily, so mastering something was not my destiny. Although I have never mastered anything I have loved my life of lesser accomplishment and I have particularly loved the passion to explore and emulate that masters inspire in me. 

Now, going back to my original "what if" proposition: What if, instead of dying, the humans assembled on God's assembly line were recalled by their QAS for recycling? And what if, before being disassembled, the men and woman who led a good moral life earned the right to choose how to come back? What if they were asked: "Do you want to be reborn modestly skilled at many things or very skilled at one?” 

As a good moral person, what would you answer with the knowledge of experience? 

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