All Work and No Play

All Work and No Play July 16, 2015

Makes Jack a master of all trades

I’m not sure why it never occurred to me before to combine the two sayings about Jack: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” and “Jack of all trades, master of none.”

But now that it has, it seemed meme-worthy. There is nothing dull about constantly learning new things. And to achieve mastery in a particular domain requires a dedication of time and effort, which again is scarcely dull. And learning can be made fun if we approach it in the right way.

It remains true that no one can truly master all trades. But we can become more than just a dabbler or dilettante if we are willing to commit ourselves.

When is the last time you learned something genuinely new? When is the last time you tried to make measurable progress in a particular area?

Master of All Trades

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  • ccws

    Maybe not something REALLY new, but getting back to something that’s fascinated me ever since my kindergarten days when we used to sing “Jesus went about doing good, the Bible tells me so,” about Jesus of Nazareth as a REAL HUMAN PERSON & not just someone out there somewhere who “died for our sins so we could go to Heaven,” but now on an adult level…

    My “light summer reading” so far has consisted mainly of Crossan et al. on the historical Jesus & Paul – fascinating stuff with an “OH, WOW!” on every page. I was reading Crossan & Borg’s “The First Paul” at my mom & stepdad’s (aka MomDave’s), and I said, “Now THIS is what should be taught in adult Sunday school!”

    Oh, and Elnes’s book on the Phoenix Affirmations. They should be teaching THAT in adult Sunday school too!

  • arcseconds

    Ah, James, that’s something of a sensitive point for me! I don’t feel I’ve raised myself much above a dilettante in all but a couple of areas, and wouldn’t claim mastery of any particular area.

    And it’s not for want of effort, although of course one could raise questions as to how that effort has been spent.

    But I do often wish I had mastered something. My skills in many areas are good enough to not just assent to but really feel the big gap between me and real masters.

    (Although I’m wondering what your standard for ‘dilettante’ is… to me it does imply some degree of competence which requires some level of commitment to achieve, what an amateur could manage by putting in a couple of hours a week for three or four years. Which, you know, isn’t nothing… you could get a senior belt level in a martial art by doing that. )

    Anyway, in reply to your question, it depends on what you mean by ‘genuinely new’. My education has been broad enough that it’s quite hard to find areas which are totally unlike anything I’ve ever done before.

    Most recently I’m having a go at combinatory logic. However, I’m already somewhat familiar with formal systems, and had some exposure to the closely related lambda calculus previously, so not something that’s genuinely new, I feel.

    And I am just about to try my hand at two (2!) new things, but I don’t want to talk about it in case it jinxes it (or in case everything comes to naught). Ask the same question next year and see what I say 🙂

    Last year I made a serious attempt at some art photography. I’ve not done that before. But I have owned a camera, on and off, for years, and my last camera has seen regular use, and I’ve always tried to go a bit beyond vanilla holiday snaps. I also have friends who are visual artists, and I’ve gone to art galleries all my life.

    (Haven’t managed to get back to it this year… which seems to be so often the way of things 🙁 )

    And then there’s biblical scholarship! That’s been learning something genuinely new!

    Although again it’s not that I knew literally zero about it (I had read the Bible, or at least most of it, before, for a start) and it’s an academic area and I’m pretty well familiar with academia…

    And I’d have to confess my involvement is very much that of a dilettante and dabbler… I read your blog, stuff you link to, occasionally fossik around other blogs and whatnot and the odd article that comes my way, but I’ve not read a single book on the subject. So I haven’t done the homework you keep exhorting us amateurs to do, I’m afraid.

    But I’ve learnt a lot, and I reckon I can now hold up my end of a conversation at a cocktail party on the subject!

    Which is, of course, an important milestone in one’s intellectual development.

    (Do biblical scholars even have cocktail parties?)

    • I can’t believe it has taken me three weeks to respond to your comment! We do sometimes have cocktail parties, although “receptions” are much more common.

      I think that, for someone working in education, taking on the role of learner/student again may be more important in itself than the particular level of mastery achieved. Whether language learning or singing, I have found myself more than once facing a situation as a student that resembles one I impose on my students, and not in a good way. I think all my completely open-ended questions (e.g. “So what did you think was interesting in the reading?” Or “What do you want to talk about today?”) need to go out the window.

      I hope at some point to actually audit some classes at Butler – again, mostly language and music, most likely.