The Renaissance Woman.

Sometimes I wish I did more.  My general life is filling and rewarding as it is for the most part.  However, occasionally I see something or hear about someone so cool that I wish I had already dedicated my life to following in their footsteps.  Like Miss Elizabeth Bennet, I want to be truly accomplished.  I want to play more musical instruments (probably the harp, banjo, guitar, hammered dulcimer, and tuba) and practice the piano and viola skills I already have.  I want to learn more about music (popular and otherwise) and try my hand a bit more at composing.  I want to learn Swahili, probably in association with a fully Bantu language, and brush up on my French, Arabic, and Mandarin.  I would like to learn more about anthropology and archeology, and possibly volunteer for a dig somewhere.  I would like to design or invent a variety of poverty ameliorating devices that would properly showcase my flare for problem-solving.  I’d like to work in some sort of space-creation again – landscape architecture, set design, interior planning, urban sculpture.  I’d like to paint more, and really practice with oils, which I only just minimally understand.  I’d like to have a garden to putter around in and learn about.  I want to read, write, and play.  Mostly though, I’m a Jack of all trades and master of none.  I start on something ambitious, and my own standards of perfection lead me to quit before I’m anywhere close to ahead.

However, there are occasional little glimmers that draw me back into the tasks I’ve momentarily set aside.  Sarah‘s freelancing career was one of these.  I thought to myself, ‘Hey, I’m a writer, I could do that!’  And I did talk about it with her over email, and check out a book and look at some things online.  But the interest slowly waned.  Then, in reading Shape and Colour, I saw the post on Erika Janunger and hurried to check out her website.  I thought to myself, I’m a designer (of sorts), I can sing.  I could so do cool stuff like that!  Heck, I first started playing the viola just because other people were learning stringed instruments for fun.

I wonder if this momentary burst of enthusiasm is just admiration, or if it’s something else.  I am intrigued by the idea of following your fancies or passions.  I’m intrigued by the idea of people moving from one area of study to the next: Da Vinci, Franklin, Le Corbusier.  It has been said that with today’s extensive specialization, no one can acquire the knowledge to be a true polymath anymore.  We’re all lost somewhere between choosing a specific path  and becoming mediocre at everything.  With women now balancing work and family life in an increasingly competitive economic environment, mediocrity is not allowable.  But while I’m not going to realize greatness in everything, I still intend on shooting for the moon.  If I don’t jump quite that high, I still hope to come down with 4 or 5 greatnesses, at least in my own personal life.

A horse of a different color

Throughout my life, the question of faith has somehow been tied up with factual evidence, historical accounts, and the power of both science and religion to facilitate wonder. Those who do not believe are always looking for proof. Those who do have faith are also looking to reinforce or explore that faith. Both sides are really looking for the same thing, though – meaning. Whether in science, religion, or philosophy the search always has been, and always will be, for meaning. For myself, I think that as long as that search is being actively pursued – as long as the faithful aren’t just sitting on their laurels watching everyone else, as long as the scientist is still striving to make that next discovery and the poet to distill that shadowy intangible – no one search will be invalid or wrong. It’s the questioning that counts, that makes life full.

Personally, that’s why I am typically delighted with the scientific discoveries made in relation to my faith. The Sea of Gallilee may have been full of ice floes and that’s what Jesus walked on? Delightful! New gospels and letters bringing into question the ideas that the early church’s Gospel left to us? Well then, let’s all get a little closer to the historical Christ, and in turn, to the one we feel in our hearts. If history unearths a new revelation or challenge for us, let’s meet the challenge.

Now it’s the turn of the Muslims to question the foundations of their faith a bit. And for a religion that holds the very image of its prophets (including Jesus) still sacred, it’s going to come as a blow. Still, there will be adaptations, modifications, and in time a lessening of the impact these foundations have. It is the nature of religions – at least the nature we have seen thus far. That’s why the Buddha is reincarnated – with each passing generation, the truth of his teaching, his path, dilutes further. You need a new shot of truth in the arm to keep progress going forward. I mean, look at how short-living some of the founding principles of current religions were – having to be Jewish to become Christian, or freeing all your slaves who were also Muslim. The things that were less politically desirable were discarded.

Now, the question comes when an individual must determine if these changes negatively or positively impacts the belief itself. Does my acceptance and tolerance of others make me more faithful, or damn me? Will the questioning of the Koran shatter the Islamic religion, or change it into something different, for better or worse?