Monday, June 7, 2010

The Dilettante

The birth of the dilettante is curiosity. Children are natural dilettantes, asking in one moment "Why is night dark?" and moving quickly to "How many eyes do spiders have?" A dilettante, like a child, is as interested in asking questions as she is in finding answers. This curiosity is grounded in open-mindedness. A dilettante is not satisfied with a pat answer. She is not bound by the parameters of "tried and true answers" that hem in more conservative minds. She is not even convinced that there are any right answers. Rather, she seeks to collect a menagerie of possible answers, one for any day or mood of the week.

Curiosity makes the dilettante find delight in even the mundane. She might marvel at the feel of moss or clover. She might search out each bird's nest in her yard and thrill at the miracle of their individual songs and their communal symphonies. She embraces the whimsical. Inquisitively, she learns how to cartwheel at the ripe old age of 35 just to see what it feels like. She dresses in a rose-colored tutu with her child to live the life of a ballerina for a day.

The dilettante experiments. She is curious to know if there is another way, a better way, than the one put forward by the textbooks and experts. She tries new things simply for the joy of novelty, the excitement of possible success. Failure is equally exciting because she perceives it as a challenge, an opportunity to “begin again more intelligently,” as Henry Ford once said.

Because she experiments, she innovates. Each trial leads to new potential. She sees that the potential horizon is only a perception. In reality, like the round globe, potential is never-ending, always expanding, always once more over the waves, through the storms, into the sunlight. And so she pushes forward, sometimes coming back to the place she began, sometimes discovering new lands or new ways to reach old lands.

Like the horizon, her interests continually expand as she progresses. She is not content to look at the universe through a telescope; she will re-create it on a canvas; she will sing it in an opera; she will tell of it in a story. She dares to embrace all that she sees, dares to grow to the size of the universe herself, not resting until her curiosity is satisfied. Never resting at all.

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A Mirror, A Summer, A Street by Autumn Crisp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.