“Hello, my name is Karl, and I’m a dilettante.”
There are a lot of dilettantes out there, and I want to do something to bring us together.
I’m starting a local chapter of Dilettantes ‘R Us.
I don’t think I’ll have trouble finding other dilettantes to join the organization — they’re everywhere in this great nation, in rural communities, in cities. No matter where I travel, I find fellow dilettantes. They come in all sizes, colors and, if you ask, they’ll tell you they are very popular.
Because they know so much.
There are a ton of them here in Siberia with a View, so I expect the local chapter to be a rousing success.
To be considered for membership in Dilettantes ‘R Us, you have to possess an absolute minimum amount of skill and knowledge related to a given subject, then be willing to act as if you are an expert. The more compelled you are to share your inflated expertise and the wider you spread the virus of your delusion, the more valued you’ll be as a member of the organization. You might even be elected to an office. In fact, everyone in the group is an officer of some sort. Just ask them.
I, for example, am a dilettante when it comes to cooking. I’ve never attended a school to learn skills (with the exception of a short session at the Culinary Institute of America during which I learned to cook a savory tomato tart); I’ve never worked as a professional to hone my skills. All I’ve done is eat a lot, read books and magazines, and piddle around in the kitchen for 40 years.
But, with this background, I have the audacity to act like Escoffier or Brillat-Savarin. I am a food writer, after all.
I’m a dilettante. But not the best, mind you — not even close.
The top-dog dilettante is someone who, after reading only one book or hearing but one exposition of a theory, acts as if he or she is expert enough to tender advice and establish policy. An honor-winning dilettante is totally oblivious to the fact that the greatest damage is done in service of an idea that sounds good to the novice ear. Dilettantes are slavish ideologues; its part of their charm. This is true whether they take up bluegrass music and the banjo, or decide to take a stab at Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” (which, of course, they never finish). It’s true of those who suddenly know all there is to know about government and politics, about road building and taxation.
Me, I’m branching out and trying to improve, expanding my territory beyond the kitchen, trying to get better at this dilettante business.
I received a gift a while back: a “medical school quality” collection of human anatomy charts.
The book is the perfect size for bathroom reading and, given the hours I spend in the bathroom, I’ve had plenty of time to scan the charts, study every system of the body, analyze the body’s structures and organs, and contemplate the spectrum of illness and injury.
I am now an authority. I’ve learned enough to join the swollen ranks of experts in alternative healing.
I can’t wait to get to the weight room and show the fellows how much I know. These guys have been lifting heavy objects and putting them back down for decades but, as a dilettante, I need to set them straight, to reeducate them about the body, to get them to change their ways.
After all, I read a book that I understand!
And, remember, “sort of” is all you need to establish excellence in the world of the dilettante.
There’s no need to prove the efficacy of what I tout; I’m a dilettante! There’s certainly no need to discuss the matter with persons better informed than I; their studied comments would only cloud the issue. I’m ready to get on with it and change peoples’ lives.
I’ll wait till the guys are doing deadlifts, then I’ll hit them with my stuff.
Any fool has heard of the rectus femoris but how many are aware of its proximity to the pectineus? Can’t wait to see the expressions on their faces when I spring this one on ’em.
Working that adductor magnus, are you? Don’t you think you should pay some attention to the gracilus while you’re at it?
Boy, I am going to be popular. Obnoxious self-proclaimed experts are always popular.
If they’re doing lateral raises, I’ll launch into a discussion of acromioclavicular separation or expound on the benefits of acriomoplasty in cases of severe trauma and impingement.
The guys at the gym will love me; everybody loves a dilettante. There are plenty of experts in gyms, and I will be their king! I’ll be king of all the goofs who strut around and give advice. All the yahoos who dispense stuff most small pets could spout, if only they could talk, will close their yaps and pay me homage.
I’ll reorganize weight room protocol. Why be an expert if you can’t initiate major change?
Advice? You want advice?
I’ll pay special attention to the young people who come into the room. If you’re going to screw up anybody with your goofy ideas, make it kids; they’ve got lifetimes ahead of them during which to suffer the consequences of your actions as an expert.
I’ll stand near the rack and wait for a young person to attempt some squats. I can enlighten the strapping tyke with a lecture about worrisome pressures on the nucleus pulposis in the L1 to L5 region. I’ll toss in a couple of bon mots regarding danger of C2 to C7 damage when hyperflexion occurs under significant weight. This, of course, will open the door for my discourse on whiplash— a must for any young person. I’ll end this portion of my lecture with a stern and lengthy warning about drinking and driving — auto accidents being a prime cause of whiplash.
With my new and extraordinary knowledge of the lymphatic system, I’ll be able to tell the kids all about the lymph vessels and nodes of the stomach, pancreas, spleen and biliary tract. If they’re smart, they’ll take notes and discuss what they’ve learned with family members during the dinner hour. Perhaps I’ll add a few asides about the role of various glands in French cuisine.
I’ll deliver my endocrine system lecture to the guys in the weight room, but I’ll probably keep my unique perspective on the reproductive system under wraps. I know a couple of the fellows feel edgy about reproduction, and I’m nothing if not considerate in the way I dispense my wisdom. I will, however, tell them all about the branches of the abdominal aorta and portal vein.
Do you have any nodules? Ask me about nodules. Anything about nodules. Go ahead, I know everything about them.
I’ll linger around the weight room, ready to impose my superior knowledge on everyone who enters. I’ll keep an eye peeled for those in particular need, given my optic chiasm is free and clear, and my inferior rectus muscle is functioning properly.
Though the role carries an enormous responsibility, I love being an expert. As a dilettante, I’m proud of the fact I’ve read my one book and can claim I know everything about a subject. I even understand some of it!
I need to make sure I have the stamina to dispense wise guidance to my community, the staying power needed to keep those with less knowledge on track. Being a dilettante means you’re in it for the long haul; the ultimate goal for a dilettante is to run for elective office where all that knowhow can have consequences that reverberate for generations. If the election fails, letters to the editor are a fine substitute.
There’s a practical side to being an accomplished dilettante, in particular when you’re fascinated by food.
When I was in the fifth grade, I received a ferocious blow to the pterion during a softball game, smack dab at the junction of the coronal and squamous sutures. As a result, I need to take extra care to properly feed the brain, ensuring my longitudinal cerebral fissure remains in serviceable form and my ascending frontal artery is elastic and fully open.
My expertise will allow me to cook some brain food. Or, rather, I’ll mix some brain food.
I call my concoction “The Dilettante Smoothie.”
I’ll start with a base of orange juice into which I’ll break a hormone-free egg, large. After I whip these ingredients together, I’ll pulverize a bundle of wheat grass in a blender with a dram of filtered water. To this I’ll add copious amounts of CoQ10, N-Acetyl Carnitine, L-Glutamine, L-Taurine and L-Taurosine. (When dealing with amino acids, its always best to err on the side of excess — and always go heavy on acids with a single capital letter in the name.) As soon as the blend is frothy, I’ll top it off with a half cup or so of Ginkgo Biloba and teaspoon or two of Arginine.
A tray of Dilettante Smoothies is in order for the first meeting of the Pagosa chapter of Dilettantes ‘R Us. We’ll gather at the fairgrounds building, if the local 4-H club isn’t using the place to build rockets and complete their lamb project logbooks.
We’ll ingest our brain food, processing it first with saliva then with stomach enzymes and hydrochloric acid. Our chyme will move to the jejunum and ileum where nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream. From that point, undigested materials will enter our colons where water and electrolytes will be absorbed before the remaining waste is stored prior to being sent back to the clear light of day. While that is happening, we can read a pamphlet or two.
The rest of the meeting will involve exercise of our respective vestibular folds, cuneiform tubercles, cornuculate tubercles and interarytenoid notches as we tell each other how we are going to grace our fellow man with our neato ideas and talents. Perhaps some of the bluegrass musicians will regale us with their Bill Munro imitations. Maybe some of the artists will bring their work so we can fawn over them and tell them what geniuses they are. If we’re lucky, someone will bring a recording of their child singing the national antherm at a high school basketball game and, though the kid sounds like she’s choking on a live bird, we’ll tell the parent the youngster is the next Maria Callas.
Try to make the meeting if you’re one of the growing number of authorities in the community, if you understood an idea recently or you’ve read one book and feel a need to change society. Drink one of my special smoothies, foist your authority on the world. The more experts, the better.
Get with it people, there’s a future to screw up.