January 23, 2013
It's amazing to think that in the 1600s, when you called someone a scholar, then that person was assumed to be an expert on many different subjects.
The men who translated the King James Bible into English knew on average five or six languages, if not more.
Galileo Galilei was known to be one of the greatest minds of his time. He knew a lot about many things – mathematics, astronomy, engineering.
Time is a beautiful thing and a great healer but it does tend to narrow things sometimes. When we talk of an 'expert' today, we assume that they are very very good at one specific field and even one specific thing within that field.
It's rare to find someone who is able to float in and out of their subject matter with ease and still retain that expertise. It's rare to find someone whose field of study doesn't restrict their great intellect to that field alone. So it was with the greatest pleasure that we spent the afternoon with Dr Stuart Clark: astronomer, physicist, journalist, author etc.
We spent the most amazing afternoon listening to him talk about the phases of the moon, the Ptolmeic system, the Copernican system, relativity, floating bodies, telescopes, Kepler, mathematics, sun spots, sun flares, Brecht, Shakespeare – the list goes on.
Not only was he bright but he understood and appreciated the value of storytelling. And while that serves him well with the novels he writes, I found it served him well when imparting his knowledge to a room full of actors.
He mentioned how 'switched on' we all were, but that was because of him! Great teachers do that. Their personality shines through everything they say and that allows the listener, if the listener is willing, to absorb every last bit of information without doubt or fear or guilt – true learning.
In today's Powerpoint classroom we seem to have lost that. Maybe it's because of today's Powerpoint government and their crusade to identify the limits of our intellect and keep us there.
Maybe that's why the arts are getting slashed the way they are? Maybe that's what Brecht was on about?
Maybe that's how Galileo felt when the government of the day wouldn't even acknowledge the proof he had discovered. After all, Galileo asserted that the Earth revolved around the sun circa 1610. The Vatican acknowledged he was right on 1 November 1992.
by Youssef Kerkour
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