noun poly·math \ˈpä-lē-ˌmath\
Definition of polymath: a person of encyclopedic learning
A polymath (Greek: πολυμαθής, polymathēs, “having learned much”) is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas; such a person is known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems.
It’s not just about math.
As far as I can remember, I loved learning. I wanted to learn all about a variety of topics. I wanted to try everything, master it, perfect the craft. I wanted to learn every language in the entire world, visit every country, and figure out every physics equation. I wanted to bake cakes, learn the piano, ride horses, and start a business selling jewelry to my friends (kids asking to join my company – on the third grade playground).
My obsessive, childlike attachment to knowledge has only amplified as i’ve gotten older. The more you learn, the more the world unfolds in front of you, new crevices you never thought existed. Giant chasms of untouched territory, brilliant connections between subjects seemingly worlds away. The subjects crease and bend, opening new spaces, creating complex patterns, an origami fractal swirling endlessly into the abyss.
The best I can do is place my hand against the delicate wall and run as fast as I can, trying to feel every surface, experience every ridge and valley before the timer runs out.
What if what you learned mindlessly tracing kanji (Japanese/Chinese characters) could help you solve that electromagnetism problem you’ve been stuck on?
What if what you learned from that fight with a friend 5 years ago helped you save a friend tomorrow?
These are moments of magic that have kept me driven to learn more, study more, and experience more. The way that the world is connected, to understand that there are similarities across all fields. Knowledge can be applied in so many subtle ways, beyond lines of discipline and departments.
My interests pingpong rapidly. One day I’m set on mastering my handstands, and the next i’m downloading screenwriting software so I can write the next blockbuster movie (dream big!). It’s not great for actually completing projects. But at this point, since there’s not really anything on the line, I allow myself to chase any interest that pops up, no matter how ridiculous. Some of my ideas come to fruition. Some of them sit sad, cold, and only partially started, on a ‘to-do’ list that’s pinned at the back of my mind.
I also find that the more you learn, the larger your circle of friends become. Your ability to connect with people is not restricted. If you know a decent amount about enough topics, you can meet someone and hold your own in a conversation about whatever they’re passionate about. You can provide value to the other person by being a conversational partner, instead of some rando who doesn’t have a clue what they’re talking about (and doesn’t care).
The thing about being a polymath is, you do care. Everyone becomes drastically more interesting because you can learn something from them. Nobody is boring, because they hold a piece that no single other person in the world has. Every interaction is magic, every moment a chance to know.
These are the reasons I want to be a polymath. In my mind, it’s just a synonym for badass.
Do you want to be a polymath? Do you know any polymaths?