To Be One Well-Rounded Individual

In the perpetual crusade to be one well-rounded, well-composed individual, I have come to realize two truths. The first: the aspiration of being a well-rounded person of sorts is solely in the power of others and in their perception of the individual. For example, it matters not that I should not know—or do know—a fact or a subject so long as I am able to lie my way into knowing (e.g. confidently talking about a subject which I am sure my listener is ignorant of, or the traditional make-it-up-as-I-go routine combined with borrowing or taking others’ ideas in the vicinity). Along similar lines, one may, as I often do, study or review the intricacies of a custom or event (like, the rules of a game, or the proper manners at a party, for instance) the day before the actual occasion. In that way, one does not truly need to know—or even understand, for that matter—a given subject longer than necessary. This approach enables one to be exactly one step ahead of others, though true knowledge is limited to hardly anything at any given moment in time. While not fulfilling the want, or need, to be a truly well-rounded man or woman, it does enable one to appear so. And sometimes—and for some, most times—that is all that matters.

The second truth that I have come to discover, the one which merits more explication, is that the entire collection of human knowledge can be organized into categories or lists, however infinite. It can safely be assumed that the actual working knowledge that is needed by any one individual, however, may be sufficiently organized in a finite number of categories or lists. Giving no immediate mention to how encompassing any such categories may be, choosing which topics matter to the individual or which topics are essential to school or work, or both, is critical. A naturalist who does not care a wit about computers would certainly not consider wireless networking among his topics; a historical novelist might consider literature, language, writing, and American history among his topics, and the like. While this idea of topic differentiation and of the depth of established categories is subjective, it is logical. The underlying philosophy of filing facts and ideas into carefully constructed lists provides for a complete understanding (or memorization, at times) by an individual. The point to make here is to understand the extent of what one needs to know, firstly, and then what one wants to know besides. It is far more economical—and mechanical—for one to know exactly what one needs for work (i.e. to contribute to society) and nothing more (though it is in everyone best interest that this does not happen). Luckily, human interest does not permit this in the least bit. It is an everlasting challenge, as a result, to balance these two halves—the needs and the wants—in terms of what to know, but more importantly, what to study and understand.

It is ideal for everyone to study and understand what is needed of them (so that a group may interact on a commonality for work or for school) and at the same time for everyone to adopt individual interests. Not straying too far from the ideas of conformity and the non-conformist, it is optimal for each person to dedicate portions of his or her list to what is needed and to what is interesting to him or her. Thus, the well-rounded individual, outside the realm of prodigies, is merely an idea. It seems that it is a far-out ambition for many, and while it is an unrealistic reality more often than not, it is something some worth driving toward. So, one may either lie his or her way though every necessary situation under the guise of “knowing,” or one may strive for the long sought-after goal of knowing it all—of being “well-rounded.” It is the latter that I think will benefit the individual and profit society, and it is the latter that I shall choose to follow.