[WARNING: This post contains self-indulgent navel gazing. Read at your own risk.]
When I was in college, I bought into the liberal arts position, hook line and sinker. It has left me tortured by regret. Fortunately, Mormonism alleviates much of my anxiety that my education has basically been a train wreck.
In college I believed that education was a matter of broadening my horizons, learning something of civilizationâ€™s arts, philosophy, science, and history. I took a lot classes in economics, philosophy, and political science, but I thought of myself as a kind of generalist student of the human condition. (I admit that I was a bit weak on literature, but I did TA a class where I ended up teaching freshman about Milton and Homer. Me! Ha!) I had vast respect for those of broad understanding who could synthesize together disparate lines of thought. I wanted to be that kind of person.
What I actually became was an intellectual dilettante, dabbling in a variety of fields, but not really specializing in anything. I graduated and self-consciously made the decision to go to law school precisely because it allowed me to avoid specialization. As an undergrad I worked for a couple of law profs and knew that law was an intersection of all of the things that I was interested it.
I still believe in the ideals of liberal education. However, I have developed a real respect for specialists and professionals. I used to see technocrats of all stripes as boring grinds, but now I see them as people possessed of secret wisdom that I envy. I wish that I could do advanced mathematics, program computers, do complex statistical analysis, design buildings and machines, and fluently speak and read other languages.
I have had fairly little religious angst in my life. With a couple of exceptions, I have never really gone through the dark tea time of the soul with regard to issues of faith or belief. I am happily shallow about such things. On the other hand, I have experienced some real funks about the disorganized state of my brain.
And this is where Mormonismâ€™s view of the universe is a great comfort to me. For some, I suppose, that the promise of salvation and eternal life provides hope that beyond the travails of life there is peace and rest. For me, however, one of the wonderful things about the Mormon heaven is that I wonâ€™t spend my time enraptured in the contemplation of Godâ€™s perfection. Rather, I will have time to study calculus, quantum physics, accounting, engineering, languages dead and living, and catch up on all of the books that I feel like I really should read. In other words, dilettantism is only for mortality. There is hope for knowledge in the eternities.