It is absolutely possible to pursue and obtain a doctoral degree and be a dilettante. It absolutely possible to delight in many disparate interests at the same time you are trying to be a specialist in one, narrow area of academic focus. I said all that by way of explaining that while getting a PhD is something I’m proud of–and indeed, all people with those three letters behind their last names deserve to be proud of jumping through that big hoop–in no way does it mean I am not a dilettante to the core. I wouldn’t say that I faked until I made it, because I really enjoyed the process and did well, BUT being on the other side of an experience that was supposed to make me an expert with a capital EXPERT has left me feeling like I just want to keep learning about other stuff that many f0lks with my academic background would see as “unrelated” or “tangential” to “real” work. Rather than self-flagellate for being undisciplined (even if that means defying my Irish Catholic impulses), I think I’ll add my voice to the chorus of those who are trying to remove the stanky stigma from from what it means to be a dilettante (hence I’m following all the blogs with “dilettante” in the title :)).
Here’s what the Oxford English Dictionary has to say:
“A lover of the fine arts; originally, one who cultivates them for the love of them rather than professionally, and so =amateur. as opposed to professional; but in later use generally applied more or less depreciatively to one who interests himself in an art or science merely as a pastime and without serious aim or study (‘a mere dilettante’).”
Put otherwise, someone who is likely interesting and fun to be around. The audacity! Remove the word “depreciatively” and that definition sounds favorable. Lest I try to figure out why that is, I’d like to turn instead to promote one my many, non-professional and for-its-own-sake obsessions:
Comedian W. Kamau Bell’s brilliant show, Totally Biased is back for a new season starting tonight. Until next time (and bear with me as I figure out this damn formatting!)