The Specialist

I met with a specialist. An expert in her field. Her field is a big one, many experts like her running around inside of it. Each of them with a certain area of expertise. Some of these experts overlap a bit, some of them are pretty far removed. No one knows everything.

I’d been looking forward to our lunch, intending to pick her brain. I’m interested in her field, and not uninformed. But my eagerness to discuss things faded quickly, almost immediately, as she boxed and labelled my interests as patently incorrect and ill-conceived.

And she suggested she’d rather not discuss work outside of work.

It wasn’t the best lunch.

When I got home, I picked up a book I’d read. I felt I now understood something I’d only ever thought about:

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s, there are few. ~ Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind 

A mind that was once open and inquisitive, eager to explore, to probe, to understand, to challenge, was now closed. In a field where I’d thought no one knew everything, here was someone with nothing left to learn.

14 thoughts on “The Specialist

  1. This was one of my major disappointments when I went to university to study history. You imagine that a professor of history would be interested in all history, and have a wide knowledge of lots of times, personalities and places. Yet in many cases, it means that their research has become more and more refined until all they care about is the form of ploughshares in thirteenth-century England. And don’t get me started on those absurd articles in incomprehensible academese that they publish in obscure journals…

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    • Ugh! Agreed all around. Especially about the ploughshare mentality and the incomprehensible academese. I had a couple of professors who required us to purchase and use the textbook they’d written, which I thought was not only vain but self-serving (guaranteed $ales). Not sure about how it works over there, but in the States all professors are under a lot of pressure to publish, and while many of them may be experts in their field, not all of them are good writers. It can be an unnecessarily brutal slog just to decipher their meaning.

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      • It’s the same over here regarding publishing and we were told to buy their tedious books too, despite the fact that you often only needed to read about a dozen pages of each one.
        Funnily enough, most of my best lecturers at uni weren’t full doctors or professors, and yet their classes were so much more interesting than the ones held by their more illustrious peers.

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  2. A good quote that can be understood in many ways. Unfortunate that she has highlighted a negative one. I hope it hasn’t completely discouraged you and that you find someone who is as passionate as you are eager.

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