Miss Pelican's Perch

Looking at my World from a Different Place

A Polymath’s Ponderings


I learned a new word this week:   polymath.   A polymath is simply a person who has “learned much.”

It was in a moment of synchronicity that I discovered this word while trolling the internet. Just the day before, I was having dinner with a friend and, admittedly, I was jumping from one topic to another in our conversation. Finally, my friend suggested that I might want to overcome the habit of spouting too many “factoids” at people — (his word, not mine). At first I was a bit defensive. I was not trying to be a Hermoine-esque know-it-all. I was merely sharing what I thought were quite fascinating observations about life in general and our world in particular. My demeanor was one of excitement and joy, if anything, and certainly not one of insufferable condescension — at least I didn’t think so.

So, being the polymathic person that I am, I started pondering why some people are not at all interested in observing and exploring the world around them. To me it is the most fascinating thing in the world to plant a garden and watch in wonder as the seeds I planted sprout and emerge from the ground, or to gaze at the night sky and imagine the intelligent design that went into the organization of the universe. I drop my jaw in wonder as I read the stunningly crafted words of Shakespeare, Lao Tzu, and Moses and realize what a profound effect these writers had upon the world.

Why do some people like a Shakespeare make such a signficant mark?   I concluded that it must have to do with Imagination.

The realm of ideas and observations of the natural world need to be organized in order for them to make sense. It requires the imagination to do so. The imagination is the engine that fuels our intellectual, philosophical, artistic, spiritual, and technological evolution. The imagination is the realm wherein the “factoids” of the world can be transmuted into something that hitherto does not exist. The imagination is the realm of Creation. The great philosophers, theologians, artists, and scientists had an abundance of imagination and used it to ask questions, organize facts, find answers, and then Create.

As much as the imagination has to do with ordering the observable world, it is also a place to make sense of the un-observable.   I am reminded of a passage in the novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith.  One of the characters, Mary, tells her daughter Katie that it is imperative that she foster a sense of imagination in her granddaughter Francie:

““Because,” explained Mary Rommely simply, “the child must have a valuable thing which is called imagination. The child must have a secret world in which to live things that never were. It is necessary that she believe. She must start out by believing in things not of this world. Then when the world becomes too ugly for living in, the child can reach back and live in her imagination. I, myself, even in this day and at my age, have great need of recalling the miraculous lives of the Saints and the great miracles that have come to pass on earth. Only by having these things in my mind can I live beyond what I have to live for.”

This last weekend I went to a Renaissance Faire. One might wonder why 12,000 people a day attend this confluence of Elizabethan costumes, food, drink, entertainment and revelry.  Sixteenth century England was  not necessarily a great place to be:  plague, war, poverty, oppression, religious persecution.  But it was also the age of exploration, discovery, artistic excellence, philosophical advance, and religious questioning.  It was one of history’s great ages of imagination.   Aside from the fact that the faire is a study of an age where the imagination was held in high esteem, it is also a place where some people, like Francie in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, can indulge in an escape into the imagination.   It is part of human nature to want to retreat into the refuge of the mind and soul.

So this polymath is going to continue to explore and expound upon the wonders of the natural world.  She is going to use the gift of her imagination to create new things.   Her joyful expression of her imagination is not going to be cowed by those who do not appreciate what we all have been given.  No, not at all.

“Spouting factoids”, my ass.

Miss Pelican,    (c) 2012

8 thoughts on “A Polymath’s Ponderings

  1. You said it, Girl, “Spouting Factoids,” my ass. Life without being able at times to escape into the imagination is no life at all.


  2. Ditto Vi! Seriously, this is so true. An insatiable curiousity about the world we live in and the ability to create new ones with our imaginations is a huge part of what both makes us human, and has allowed us, as humans, to create the world as we know it. Hurray for polymaths, and hurray for the marvelous thing we call imagination!

  3. With our thought we make the world…those who imagine beauty and bring it into being are making a better world

  4. Bravo, Lori! I applaud you. Your ability to finding understanding in the comments of your friend is a perfect response. I, too, get excited about what I’ve learned or an epiphany I’ve had and find joy in sharing. But I have found some people either incapable of understanding or not ready to hear my words.

  5. One hundred per cent agreement, Lori! People do far too little thinking–just plain thinking, exploring their own minds, seeing what’s rattling around up there. I wonder why that is. With such an amazing world, why don’t they look around instead of looking at TV for hours on end? I was in the hospital today and the man in the bed next to Ed had the TV blaring for more than four hours! Give me a person who’s enthused with life, who loves to learn and share, just like you!

  6. I think it’s very sad that some people claim not have to have an imagination, their lives must lack so much colour. Encouraging children to nurture their imagination is very important. I would also never discourage polymaths from sharing their enthusiasm for the fascinating world we live in.
    3 cheers for imagination and interest

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