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The Polymath Lifestyle

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"The learned Fool writes his Nonsense in better Language than the unlearned; but still 'tis Nonsense." Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard Improved, 1754.

Polymaths like to take trips to book stores, both new and used. They like to build up their own libraries and meaningful web pages.

The basic principle of intellectual freedom is to be able to buy any book you like. Of course, this freedom requires not only a bit of money, as well as parental consent perhaps, but also the ability to read and understand what you have picked up and hold before you. Polymaths strive for the freedom to read many kinds of difficult books. This is real freedom, the freedom to understand what you want. Perhaps this is why most polymaths prefer bookstores to libraries: many of the books they buy take a long time to work on, perhaps years.

Polymaths also like to play with computers, to make things. They are often artists, musicians, puppeteers etc. They like to get involved in cultural and scientific fairs, as long as they are not forced into it. Polymaths do not like to be forced to do anything. They tend to be intellectually rebellious. They may be reading their own book in class instead of what the English teacher wants them to read--not recommended if the teacher is on to you. But they usually catch up on their school work in the nick of time because they read and write well, which is the real key to academic success.

Polymaths especially like to write, which is the same as serious thinking. Polymaths eventually surpass all their peers in academic performance even though they often find what they are forced to learn in formal schooling to be trivial.

Successful polymaths always respect the opinions and the person of others, especially teachers, who are usually very dedicated people. There is no greater ignorance than the presumption to look down on someone else. It is a truism perhaps, but you can learn something from almost anybody.

Polymaths have common sense too, are practical as well as intellectual. This is the natural result of a broad interest, studying many people as well as many things. Know the person as well as you know the abstraction.

The polymath takes command of his or her own intellectual development from an early age, usually no later than high school, and continues to learn throughout life.

Not only is this enjoyable as a lifestyle, it has practical survival value in the information age. Any set of skills we have, or what we think we know, can become obsolete overnight.

Polymaths often try teaching. Many become good teachers. There is no better way to learn than to teach others. Polymathic people are often found hanging out in universities. Of course, teaching in an institution for a living can distort one's basic intellectual purpose because credentialism creates obvious conflicts. It is probably better not to spurn social accolades however, but to look at them as a symbolic reward, something that makes your mom happy. Whether teacher or student, it is the attitude that's important. View the institutionalization of learning and teaching as an artificial contrivance, a worldly expedient.

Beyond the university, polymaths often find themselves in an entrepreneurial position. Often, you are able to do more in a practical way than by just spinning theories. But then there is also the danger of being distorted by the market. Money is the medium of business, but it is only superficially its method. Life, and the web, is hopefully more than one big advertisement. Many polymaths and other intellectuals are sub-optimal in terms of making money, maximizing profit, but when you stop to think about it, there is really nothing wrong with this.

Basically, the polymath lifestyle is one of confidently taking on interesting challenges. It is also one of balance and perspective, viewing things from different perspectives as well as keeping a fundamental sense of conscious purpose.



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