Synthesis Versus Specialization
A Man May Successfully
Follow Several Careers
By NICHOLAS ROERICH
It would seem that the entire history of humanity directs us once and forever to understand the principle of cooperation, and the maintenance and harmonization of varied centers of interest. But reality shows that things are entirely different. I will not reiterate that to the dark forces every mention of synthesis or unity is obviously adverse and irritating. This is quite natural, for chaos--with all its disorderly convolutions--is opposed to harmony, progress and constructiveness. Thus we should not be surprised that darkness always is and will be against every form of constructive cooperation.
But it is especially deplorable when one witnesses that even certain seemingly cultural minds are disturbed and revolt against every reference to synthesis. Such a slight is so unexpectedly rude and vulgar that one does not even want to believe that under the masks of respectability and sweet-voicedness could hide such fossilized and dusty outmoded ideas. Darkness thus hopes to break up the light, but encounters defeat in such absurd attempts. All voluntary and involuntary allies of darkness are also certainly defeated in due course but time is needed to recognize every absurdity. It is infinitely sad to witness how valuable, irreplaceable time is wasted on mutual negations and divisions in order not to admit the possibility of healthy blissful synthesis.
If we tell ourselves that this deplorable state is the consequence of darkness, it is a poor consolation. Or, if we say that it issues from narrow thinking or envy or malice, then this is a still poorer consolation, because such abhorrent properties also are created by the same darkness. The spreading of darkness is terrible, and its ravages like those of a pernicious epidemic. Humanity has discovered many salutary remedies against plague, cholera and similar pestilences, but the microbes of dark negation still have not been isolated.
Synthesis of Careers
Turning to the history of humanity, we see a multitude of examples of most absurd negations with the sole purpose to besmirch constructive synthesis. Many stupidities were expressed to the effect that Leonardo da Vinci harmed his great art by being at the same time a remarkable engineer, biologist, and philosopher. And more than once it was hinted, in the most ignorant way, that the art of Rubens suffered from his diplomatic career and statesmanship. However, a mighty creativeness and a wide mind demand multifarious expressions in varied materials and domains. The ordainments of Eastern wisdom tell us that even Bodhisattvas should master at least one art and one craft. The wisdom of ancient Rabbis underlines the warning that if youth, besides its main activity, is not skilled in some craft, then it will be like preparing them only for banditry at the crossroads.
The whole of antiquity, all epochs of renaissance, relate the most striking compatibilities. Let us not forget that Cardinal Richelieu, when searching for an active secretary, chose a man who was busy in many fields. And when it was hinted to the Cardinal that this man was already too busy for a new appointment, the experienced statesman replied "If he is so busy he will know how to find time also for my work." The much experienced Cardinal valued all advantages derived from the realization of synthesis.
We further know that Julius Caesar sometimes dictated six letters simultaneously. Long is the list of similar examples of attainment in compatible fields, which but prove the inexhaustible possibilities of man.
We have heard that Einstein, besides being a brilliant mathematician, is also a wonderful violinist. Has music belittled his astounding mathematical foresight? Certainly not. The harmony of sound gave him new daring thoughts of his definition of the universe. The remarkable pianist, Hoffman, is at the same time also an excellent mathematician and engineer. Who will dare to say that one or the other is incompatible and an impeding principle? Spinoza was a skilful master of telescopical lenses, and besides was known as a fine portraitist. Did his deep philosophy, suffer from this, or did his lenses become worse because of his philosophy?
One may enumerate without end similar examples, in which a thinker expressed himself also in different fields of creativeness and craftsmanship.
Specialization Sets Boundaries
It would seem that these facts are sufficiently obvious and clear, and that one needn't dwell on them. But humanity, up to now, strives by all means to affirm the superiority of unnecessary divisions and perilous specialization.
Horrors of unemployment, horrors of the inability properly to assign one's time and capacities, are due just to such absurd divisions. At the time of the Italian renaissance Leonardo, and many other masters who widely displayed various talents, were recognized. But now, in spite of every kind of human progress, this would call forth many negations and condemnations. I was witness to a discussion that took place as to whether the composer Rachmaninof should appear also as conductor of a symphony orchestra. According to the opinion of a certain manager, a good composer could not be a good conductor also, and vice versa! Besides this, the idea of the manager was that one should not burden the public with the necessity of comprehending such compatibility. As if the general public could in no way understand that a man can act in two fields, if they are close to each other in their essence! No doubt the same manager would have condemned Hoffman for his love for mathematics, or Bennois for permitting himself to be at the same time an artist and a writer. No doubt a reference to the famous Italian Vasari, who was both an artist and a historian would have been of small avail to persuade the present-day ignoramusses.
Some one even stated the stupidity that an artist cannot be a philosopher--in other words a clever person--as if creativeness were connected with idiots only! And when it was recently printed in the papers, that the Lord Mayor of Bridgeport, who is a skilled rooflayer, continues his handicraft even during his term of municipal activities, then the readers only smiled. From the point of view of the belittler and the disseminator of the theory of specialization this was a proof of the uselessness of the Lord Mayor in both fields. And what is there bad in the fact that the famous Russian Composer Borodin, of Prince Igor fame, was a professor of the Military Medical Academy?
An intelligent man can often synthesize his interests and talents and be successful in more than one career. This synthesis giving full scope to his natural abilities - can expand the many-sided personality of man, whereas the limitations of "specialization" only hamper it.
Limitations Bring Disunity
Arbitrary divisions and conventional limitations have reached incredible absurdity. One must have a very poor mind, when one directs humanity toward such deadly divisions and prohibitions. Precisely from them are generated shameful mutual human hatreds, of which we are witness. The study of the nervous system, with its fiery energies, shows what an actually many-sided instrument the human organism is.
In the name of the highest knowledge, in the name of betterment of life, in the name of cooperation, we have to acknowledge the hidden properties and possibilities in every human being. And having admitted the existence of these happy qualities, people must find in themselves the moral strength to express their talents for the good of all, despite the whisperings of darkness; not being held back by false prohibitions when existence itself proves the possibilities of flourishing attainment through a synthesis of occupations. Especially let youth--all students from the first days of their studies--hear of the blissful method of synthesis as the true instigator of progress.
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