Gordon Parks [1912-2006] was often referred to as a renaissance man, as noted in an obituary by Dennis McLellan [Los Angeles Times March 8, 2006], and lived up to the label: “In addition to his photography, film work and poetry, he composed a symphony, sonatas, concertos, film scores, and wrote novels, instructional photography manuals, essays and three memoirs.
“He received numerous honors over the years, including the National Medal of Arts from President Reagan. He was a high school dropout.”
But the complimentary title “renaissance man” is rarely applied to women, as I note in my article Gifted Women: Identity and Expression: social reactions toward women, especially those who are gifted, may be demeaning and hostile. A label like “scattered” rather than “multifaceted” may result from insecurities people feel around exceptional people.
And we may also condemn ourselves with this sort of negative label.
In her article: Are You a Scanner?, Barbara Sher talks about being multifaceted as an identity to celebrate: “If you’re a Scanner, you are a very special kind of thinker.
“Unlike those people who seem to find and be satisfied with one area of interest, you’re genetically wired to be interested in many things. Because your behavior is unfamiliar — even unsettling — to the people around you, you’ve been taught that you’re doing something wrong and you must try to change.
“But what you’ve been told is a mistake — you have been misdiagnosed. You’re a different creature altogether. What you’ve assumed is a disability to be overcome by sheer will is actually an exceptional gift. You are the owner of a remarkable, multitalented brain trying to do its work in a world that doesn’t understand who you are and doesn’t know why you behave as you do.”
[The article is an excerpt from her book Refuse to Choose!]
Others also see value in this kind of awareness and way of being. Mary Catherine Bateson [book: Composing a Life] said, mainly about women, “It is time to explore the creative potential of interrupted and conflicted lives, where energies are not narrowly focused or permanently pointed toward a single ambition. These are not lives without commitment, but rather lives in which commitments are continually refocused and redefined.”
Creativity coach and writer Eric Maisel, Ph.D. [one of his titles: The Creativity Book] thinks, “Whatever else you might need to do, one thing that will help you grow more creative is consciously engaging in new explorations.
“If we do not explore, we do not get to go anywhere new, and if we do not go anywhere new, we can’t be creative.”
[Photo: actor Danica McKellar is also a mathematician and author. See post: Gifted women in science: Danica McKellar on being girly and tech savvy.]
Jean Houston [book: A Passion for the Possible, among many others] commented in our interview about the quality of personal identity that can make us multifaceted, “Polyphrenia – the orchestration of our many selves – is our extended health. We have a vast crew within.”
J. Krishnamurti in his book Think on These Things declares, “Only the mind which has no walls, no foothold, no barrier, no resting place, which is moving completely with life, timelessly pushing on, exploring, exploding – only such a mind can be happy, eternally new, because it is creative in itself.”
Burgeoning Renaissance woman Salma Hayek said in an interview [Tatler, June 2002] that she didn’t know what the future holds for her, but she still has “so much to discover. Maybe I’ll be an actress for the next 10 years, maybe after that it’ll be directing. Maybe I’ll be a painter – I started painting [when making "Frida"] and love it. Maybe being a mother will be the best role in my life – who is to say? I know I’ll always want to be creating something.”
Here is a video from the post How to have a satisfying & rewarding life as a scanner – on the UK blog Scanners Night – “a monthly London event for creative people, entrepreneurs, and of course Scanners.”