I’m a generalist in a world which loves specialists. I’m interested in the entire forest, not just knowing everything about one or two random trees.
When I look up into the sky — such as in this photo I took in Trussville, Ala., six years ago — I see an integrated whole. I don’t focus on one or two trees. I don’t choose a specific cloud and want to study that cloud to the exclusion of the rest. I see beauty in the whole which wouldn’t exist in any particular part by itself.
But our world is set up today for specialists. We’re told that specialists are worth more money and that they have deeper knowledge. We have all benefited from the knowledge and training of specialists in many ways, but we’ve reached the point at which society doesn’t much understand the value of seeing how the many pieces of the whole fit together.
I’ve always been envious of people who could describe what they “are” in one word — a teacher, an accountant, a reporter, a mechanic, a plumber and so forth. No one word fits me. It never has. But I’ve recently realized that I’ve been looking at this the wrong way. The world has a serious need for specialists, but the people who understand what’s going on — who can help us find meaning and help dig us out of the hole in which we find ourselves — are the generalists. Like me.