Ever since I have been able to understand the meaning of it, I've been striving to be something of a renaissance man. That probably sounds a little bit pretentious, but it's true. I have always liked the idea. A man who seeks "to develop skills in all areas of knowledge, in physical development, in social accomplishments, and in the arts" seems like a pretty good dude to me. I guess its a lot like me striving to be a gentleman. I spend a lot of time talking about the idea of the old-fashioned gentleman, because I am teaching my son the ways of this lost art. With my pupil being but five years old, it is proving to be a hard fought battle. My son is quick to remind me that "being a gentleman is too hard!" He's probably right. Its not easy to open doors for women who don't expect doors to be opened for them. It sometimes leaves you standing there looking a little silly as you rush to grab a door a few seconds too late to hold it open for the girl that is now running away from the weirdo guy she thinks is trying to stalk her. The same is true of the whole renaissance man idea. It sometimes feels a bit like a futile endeavor. The acquisition of knowledge that no one cares you have doesn't always feel as noble as I had hoped it would.
I liken it to Luke and Han. (That's Luke Skywalker and Han Solo for you youngsters.) Luke is a young Jedi, learning the ways of the Force. He strives to use his mind. He strives to control his emotions. He uses a light saber instead of a gun. He speaks to his forefathers. Then there's Han. The money hungry pilot with the quick wit and the quick trigger. Who do the girls swoon for? Not the Jedi.
I always imagined that the Greek polymath would be a rather sought after lad. The Italian renaissance man, at least in my head, would be quite the catch. But when I look at recent history, I find that girls don't go for that. James Dean. John Wayne. Brad Pitt. These are not learned men. These guys are not known for their scholarly works. In fact, I'm having trouble thinking of a famous "renaissance man" that isn't 500 years back in our history. I guess I was born at the wrong time. Ancient Greek philosopher, perhaps. Knight in shining armor, maybe. But Jimmy Dean or John Wayne I will never be.
Still, even saying that seems wrong. Did I choose the path of the Jedi in order to be famous? Did I put down my gun and begin crafting my light saber in hopes of getting girls? Of course not. And such is life. The road less traveled is so named because most choose the other way. In choosing that path, one must accept his loneliness as his own doing. Its a hard pill to swallow. Its going down slowly.
As I teach my young padawan the ways of the Jedi, he constantly asks, "Why do I have to be a gentleman?" Sometimes I ask myself the same question.