Without the inspiration of curiosity, no one can be an historian, sociologist, psychologist, philosopher, or a serious student of any one of the many humanities and social sciences or any one of the physical, biological and applied sciences. Inspiration, receptivity, and curiosity are indispensable as driving forces, but they are insufficient to bring a budding mind to flower, insufficient to have the mind rise to a higher flight and to stay flying for years and even decades. The individual must make something of these driving forces with other human qualities like: persistence, effort, endurance, patience and a number of other personality factors.
For many of the years of my education from 1949 to 1967, I was involved in an intellectual hurdle-race of alternately preparing and sitting for examinations. Education became for me, during those years from primary school to university, the equivalent of assessment, a continuous form of evaluation and judgement of how I was doing in terms of As, Bs, and Cs, marks out of 100, as well as credits and distinctions.
After those dozen years I did not become a specialist who was intent on knowing more and more about less and less in the form of advanced degrees. It was through some unmerited grace, or perhaps simply incapacity, that prevented me from getting the required high marks to do advanced study in any one field. It was not thanks to any native common sense though that, as an academic pilgrim in my late teens and twenties, from the 1950s to the 1970s, many of the worlds of knowledge slowly came to be of interest to me. No one subject ever stood out above the rest. I started out in life as a generalist and not a specialist, and I remained a generalist into these years of my late adulthood with old-age on the horizon.
Perhaps my failure to specialize in one of the arts or sciences in my last year of high school and my four years of post-secondary education was due to those mysterious dispensations of a watchful Providence, as the historian Edward Gibbon(1737-1794) once put it, in what some scholars of the history see as the greatest work ever written by a historian.(1) At the age of 23 I graduated after 4 years of university with a B.A. and a B.Ed.---as a generalist. I was a specialist in nothing on graduation, and a generalist in the arts and education.
Forty-five years later at the age of 68, I have read widely and taught widely. I have written widely and given my intellectual energy to the ever-open vent of action with people in a myriad number of walks of life. The price of continuous creation as a teacher-lecturer was a perpetual tension and, for people like myself with scholarly interests and the need for solitude, the pursuit of learning has always taken place, to a significant extent, in the field of action. I was a teacher-tutor, lecturer-adult educator, to say nothing of several other roles, during the years from the age of 23 to the age of 55, when I took an early retirement and a sea-change to northern Tasmania near the Bass Strait which is itself an extension of the Great Southern Ocean on the west and the Tasman Sea on the east.
My need for a relatively continuous creativity was accompanied by a tension associated with the act of learning, teaching students and adjusting to my changing roles and personal circumstances during those more than 3 decades. After the age of 55 the tension of creativity shifted from the field of action with people in my role as a teacher to action associated with writing prose and poetry, editing and publishing, reading and researching, engaging in online journalism and blogging.
“Poets and scholars,” the British historian Arnold Toynbee(1889-1975) once wrote, “are chosen vessels who have been called by their Creator to take human action of an ethereal kind…and they have to face an ordeal in that field of action, an ordeal which is the price of the privilege.”(2)-Ron Price with thanks to:(1) Edward Gibbon, Chapter XV: Progress Of The Christian Religion, Part III, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and (2) Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol.10, OUP, NY, 1963( 1954), p.36.
When writing and publishing,
when poetizing and essaying,
one casts one’s bread upon the
waters and finds it after many1
days sometimes, as Longfellow
said…“in the heart of a friend,”2
not always, though, not with all
and everyone. If I avoid a study and
literary work which does not die when3
I die, and if I do God’s will by working
for the coming of God’s Kingdom, doing
some little thing knowing that ars longa,4
vita brevis, with my working tempo set by
a psychic chronometer with its hands, its
dynamics: intellect-spiritual-creativity, &
with Andrew Marvell, I will roll all my5
strength and all my sweetness up into one
ball and tear my pleasures with rough strife
through the iron gates of life, my work will
then be found after many days & I will find
myself far beyond this least of worlds and I
will be plunged into many oceans and lands
of light and their gardens of Paradise: oh so
safe, so very safe forevermore, forevermore!
1. Ecclesiastes, xi, I.
2. A poem of American poet and educator Henry Wadsworth Longfellow(1807-1882), The Arrow and the Song.
3. Leonardo da Vinci, The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci, editor, J.P. Eichter, 2nd ed., OUP, Oxford, 1929, p. 244, vol.2.
4. Ars longa, vita brevis are the first two lines of a Latin translation of an aphorism by Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates. One of many translations of this aphorism is: “The arts, the creations, of man, can have a long life, but man’s life itself is short.”
5. The English metaphysical poet and politician Andrew Marvell(1621-1678), To His Coy Mistress, II, lines 41-46.
Ron Price 28 & 29/9/’12.
Updated on: 19/11/’12
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- This post is written in memory of Ray Bradbury
- This post was written in connection with the transit of Venus