Specialization is for insects

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” — Robert A. Heinlein

This quote has intrigued since I first read it when I was younger. Back then, mostly it bothered me: I’ve generally tended to become deeply interested in just a few things, rather than exploring lots of different things. (And I did, and still do, most often play hyperspecialized RPG characters.)

Back in high school my favorite teacher said, “Everything is interesting if you look closely enough,” and in the 20 years since then I’ve found that to be true on many, many occasions.

Becoming a dad five years ago shifted a lot of things in my head, as I’m told it tends to. Dads (and moms) can’t afford to specialize; I’ve had to branch out and learn to do lots of things, to appreciate things — pony cartoons, invisible sisters, weird games — that I would never have considered on my own.

Fast forward to this past year, when I took up old interests I’d abandoned (camping, hiking, biking, target shooting) and got into things that were totally new to me (peakbagging, weightlifting, meditation), and I now realize that I see Heinlein’s quote differently than I did as a kid: I’m enjoying the hell out of not specializing.