When I was a young teen (this was the mid-1960s) I was fascinated with Leonardo da Vinci — he was so creative, talented, intelligent, and knew so much about all that could be known in his time period (1452-1519). He combined knowledge from multiple disciplines, and created astounding things, thought astounding thoughts. He is often called The Renaissance Man, and I decided I wanted to be a Renaissance Woman.
This was back when television was changing the way we got our information. Books, newspapers, and magazines were still important, but the nightly news brought the war in Vietnam directly into our living rooms. Visual and audio learning became even more pervasive, and much was mentally absorbed directly, with not quite as much mulling over as when we read about it. Advertising, which first began using psychology to sell things in the early 1900s, loved television, and took full advantage of the chance to affect how people thought about products. So did politicians — remember what a difference it made in the Kennedy-Nixon debates. Television brought us more information about more things, from all over the world.
In the mid-1970s I still had the naive hope to be a Renaissance Woman. Since childhood I’d been an avid reader, and at some point I purposefully read books from a variety of areas in the library — ceramics, ancient history, mathematics, engine designs, gardening, weaving, animal husbandry, forestry, biology, politics, philosophy, sports, geology, and on and on. Most of it was fascinating, but some of it was a bit of a slog. I kept on.
At first computers were an amazing way to do computations faster. Then to compile and share information on an organizational level. And suddenly to share information on a personal and rapidly expanding international level. Information comes at us from all over the world, even beyond Earth, faster and faster. The volume of information alone is too much to really comprehend.
Now I sit at my computer, reading articles, blogs, and people’s thoughts on Facebook and Twitter, frequently checking references because you can no longer trust something isn’t made up. I read books and watch movies. There are ideas I try to follow, because they still fascinate me, and I journal to help myself make sense of what I read. Fortunately much of this information came in handy when I worked as a therapist and advocate — it was easier to make connections with people. Even being retired, there is not enough time to read, watch, discuss, and learn all the things I want to know. Sometimes it frustrates me, because I know I can never be a Renaissance Person the way Leonardo da Vinci was. There is too much to know now.
But I still try, because I love to learn.