Open & Closed

Working out what to do when there seem to be so many options – so much openness – can be tough. Working out what to do when you want to choose as many of those options as possible is even tougher. Limitation is one of the defining features of being alive, and it permeates its way through all areas, rearing its familiar and unchangeable head all over the place. I have often thought of myself as being wary of limitation. Being interested in wide range of things, I feel cautious about dedicating myself to a limited area, focussing my resources on it and specialising. There is breadth and there is depth, and it’s virtually impossible to have both. Perhaps it’s the nature of the culture we inhabit, but it seems we are all encouraged to specialise – becoming increasingly expert on an increasingly small area – by family, teachers, friends, and ourselves.

If asked about this in the past, I would have responded that I want to break free from that pattern. Not out of any sense of superiority or uniqueness, but simply because it is only one of way of doing things, and not one that is suited to all people. I would have said that I would choose to spiral outwards, instead of staring more and more fixedly on a dwindling patch of Creation.

Now, I think, my response is a little different. I have come to understand the beauty hidden in specialisation. Focussing on an area, be it the implantation of mechanical liver pumps or the building of church organs, opens up a portal (this is the only word I can think of to describe it) to the rest of the world. You notice symmetries and patterns in fields that could not seem more distant, and, paradoxically, a deeper understanding of everything is reached, through unrivalled dedication to something.

My conclusion is still the same, however. I like breadth. I like talking to people who have mined deep into one subject. My preference of breadth over depth makes those conversations very interesting. I just realise that openness is reached in each dimension. Maybe in another few years I’ll think differently and say that you get more openness by closing off your ‘breadth’ options.



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