There seems to be a direct correlation between life experience and wisdom, which is why the idea that the knowledge and skills of many can be found in one person is the stuff of legends. We even have a term for it, a Renaissance Man. The concept of Renaissance Men (and women, henceforth Renaissance Myn) has captured people's imaginations for millennia, and secretly some of us aspire to similar accomplishment. But how do you find true Renaissance Myn, if indeed such people truly exist, and what skills & attributes can lead you on the way to becoming one yourself?
Quantifying wisdom is fraught with hubris but it provides a certain satisfaction for goal-focused personalities which, frankly, it would seem most Renaissance Myn are, and since life is the accumulation of all the things you have done and know then it seems reasonable to measure where you are going, not as a competition with others but as an inspiration to yourself. So, though measuring wisdom is a fool’s errand, if you do not take yourself too seriously, the entertainment value is worth it.
One of the first signs of wisdom is recognizing that you must keep your goals achievable. There were certainly astoundingly competent & complete personages in the past, and even now, that are deserving of the highest Renaissance Myn recognitions: Humanist, Polymath & even Homo Universalis; but being the best is not necessarily better where wisdom is concerned. We can all strive for Renaissance Mynhood in our everyday lives, doing everyday things, but with vim & vigor, and following a plan.
The title given to a person who has achieved facility in many aspects of wisdom is “Factotum.” The dictionary definition of Factotum is, “a person having many diverse activities or responsibilities.” Its origin is mid-16th century Latin as “do it all.” “Magister factotum” meant “master of everything,” and “Johannes factotum” translates colloquially as “Jack of all trades.” If life is a pie, and the slices are life's challenges & opportunities, 8 pieces describe a complete & fulfilled Factotum: wealth, fame, beauty, family, career, humanity, leader & citizen.
W.E.B. Du Bois
In a recent study of 100 people from the past identified as possible Renaissance Myn, 19 were deemed to be Factotum; people like two-time Nobel Laureate Marie Curie, NAACP founder W.E.B. Du Bois, and Founding Father Thomas Paine. Though these names are famed for other accomplishments, their wisdom is something we can all aspire to. The modern Factotum need only pay attention to the things they have done in their life so that they know what remains to be done.
Wealth (earned, inherited): Society recognizes wealth as a sign of success regardless of rather it was earned or inherited. One must be a millionaire to be considered wealthy, and exhibit the indicators of wealth, such as a big house, fancy car, or other accouterments. Whatever your personal sentiments on the issue of ostentatious displays of wealth, your association with money, its use and investment, and the social stratification it causes, all contribute to wisdom.
Fame (athlete, actor): Fame can be lucky or predicated. It can come from your job, talent, or pedigree, but however fame comes, experiences will make themselves available to you that would not otherwise be. People will treat you differently and your relationships will change. How you adjust will modify your personality, adding nuanced wisdom. Though somewhat arbitrary, you are considered famous if one million people know who you are, for whatever reason.
Beauty (appearance, flamboyance): Beauty is often mentioned in describing someone. Skin deep beauty may be fleeting, delicate and insubstantial but it does leave an indelible impression: tall people are inordinately promoted, and athletically built people are admired. Many people are born beautiful but most have to work at it, and some people are not physically beautiful but they distinguish themselves through affection: recognizable attire, feigned speech patterns, outlandish behavior, or simply an attractive personality. Also, beauty can be in things, for example fashion sense, decorating skills, or a general je ne sais quoi.
Family (spouse, children): Successful people need not experience society-defined relationships within a traditional family unit but there is no doubt that most people consider “the family” as the starting place of wisdom. Close, intimate relationships certainly mold one into the person they become, and maintaining a spouse and children may seem mundane but it is intensely difficult, and nothing has more of an impact on one’s personality. Your formative years as a child have no counterpart in adulthood, and the experience of parenting has no substitute. Intimate personal interaction, trust, loyalty, obligation, and love contribute greatly to wisdom. Any committed relationship counts, usually evidenced by marriage but of course alternate forms exist. Raising a child to adulthood is an important indicator.
Career (journalist, engineer, entrepreneur): Our first impression of people is defined by what they do, and success is often subjective. However, a measurement of one's career would be recognition by your peers, organization, or industry, or honored in your field.
Humanity (volunteer, advocate, patron): Part of wisdom is showing compassion & empathy, including the sacrifice of self-interest in preference to others. Achievement may be noted via recognition by fraternal organizations, volunteering at legal or medical clinics, promoter of the arts, or other significant contribution of your skills, time, money, or property.
Leadership (CEO, captain, priest): The signs of leadership are sometimes easy to identify, like a title, but the title does not necessarily make a leader. True leadership is an uncommon attribute, and not always easy to discern because a leader does not necessarily command the recognition, gratitude, or even the admiration of those who follow. The true definition of a leader is one that guides, and even creates events out of sheer force-of-will.
Citizen (politician, teacher, activist): A citizen of society participates and supports the underlying framework of the social contract, and can enunciate the legitimacy their society is built on. They understand civics, respect the rights of others, support the common cause, contribute to the general well-being of all members, and weave any of the many threads in the fabric of human interaction.
Over a lifetime of perseverance in your quest for Renaissance Mynhood, scrutinize every activity for contribution, calculate all travel for breadth of experience, and self-examine relationships for sincere commitment. Certainly no one is ever finished, the decades ahead still offer ever increasing wisdom, but as a Factotum, you can be confident and comfortable in the knowledge that your time on this earth was fruitful and well managed.
If you are interested in learning more, see the Renaissance Myn website at http://www.martinhash.com/rmyn
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