A polymath is a person who excels in a multitude of capabilities, naturally by instinct. Instinct, however, cannot be blamed when a person limits their curiosity to adapt to new abilities because of the archaic belief of “sticking to one thing in life”.
While sticking to one thing has its charm, why then more and more people are choosing to diversify their capabilities today and be a polymath themselves?
The Origin of Polymaths – Renaissance Humanism
The Rennaissance period that spread across Europe during the 14th, 15th, and 16th century is considered the birthplace of polymaths. Often considered as the transition from the Middle Ages to Modernity in European history, the Rennaissance period based its movement on the intellectual principles of humanism.
Humanism is a word derived from the concept of Roman Humanitas– a Latin term meaning human nature, civilization, and kindness, often has its roots in enlightenment. The concept of Roman Humanitas was created to define the code of conduct of being a Roman, which highly corresponded to the Greek theories of philanthrôpía– meaning loving what makes us human and paideia– meaning education.
Controversial statements for those times such as “Man is the measure of all things” by Greek philosopher Protagoras along with the thought of creating a world where the citizens were a combined excellence of their “mind, body and soul” was the basis of Renaissance Humanism.
Not confined to the elite, but rather a cultural movement aimed to evoke the best in human beings, the Renaissance Humanism focused on building citizens as people who were eloquent with a diversity of skills, like writing, speech, art, poetry, and philosophy, thus making them capable citizens to engage within communities and persuading others to follow the path of total excellence. Therefore, creating a societal legacy of culture, morals, and philosophy.
A man or woman who encompassed this diversity of skills and abilities was then known as the Renaissance person. Leonard Da Vinci is often considered as a Renaissance man as he was not only an accomplished painter producing historic oil paintings like the Monalisa or The Last Supper, but he also was a mathematician, a musician, an engineer, a writer, an anatomist, an architect, a sculptor, and an inventor, where his concepts included early traces of a helicopter, a tank, a calculator, a parachute, a robot, a telephone, evolution, and solar power. Such a person is known as a Renaissance man or woman encompassing multiple skills is known as a polymath.
The End of Renaissance Period
Towards the beginning of the 16th century, many wars across Spain, Germany, and Italy combined with the censorship of artists and writers by the Catholic church led to the downfall of the Renaissance Humanism movement. Considered as too bold and too creative for social wellbeing, the Renaissance thinkers were often punished for being too intelligent.
With changing trade routes, and prolonged wars, there was a noticeable decline in the amount of money spent on things that were not basic human needs of food, shelter, and clothing. Wealthy contributors and supporters who propelled the Renaissance Humanism movement no more spent on arts, poetry, architecture, music, or inventions. This was the end of the Humanitas movement.
A More Recent Human History
Moving forward to the recent human history of the 19th century, facing plagues, depressions, and world wars, arts and skills were the last thing on the minds of collective societies. Learning and growth were all confined to the physical environment and physical reach which was mainly defined by their economic capabilities. However today, with the ease of access to any information, knowledge, and even wisdom at a click of a button, the Renaissance Humanism is slowly making its way back into modern-day society. Entrepreneur Elon Musk and his multiple ventures across diverse fields along with the fandom propelled in being so by the press have evoked the sheer will across many young people across the world to be a polymath themselves.
The Human Nature
It is an intrinsic human quality to grow. Wanting to be more than what one is. No matter how enlightened one is, or non-capitalistic even, every human being´s innate essence is to do what they do best, to be more than who they are. The entire life is a battlefield process between the mind and oneself, passing each lesson of growth and learning, one step at a time. And at times, many steps are repeated because of lessons not already learned. While some human beings have the luxury of an emotionally, financially, mentally, and physically secure environment around them to process this learning and pass their life lessons with more ease, many face innumerable hindrances that interfere with their learning or clearing of their life lessons. Hindrances of family expectations, their own social beliefs, economic means, and even an inferiority complex inflicted by society because of their constant comparison of their lives with the ideal ones touted by media and celebrities. When one´s most basic growth or realization of self conflicts, how can one then diversify into multitudes of abilities and even think of being a polymath.
The Foundation of A Polymath
Here is when I contradict the above statement and would like to emphasize that a polymath´s capabilities and journey are not suppressed by their environment and economic stature in life, but rather augmented and extracted to their best, because of their environment and surroundings.
Let me give you my own example.
When I was seven years old, my class was assigned a science project at school with the topic- “Endangered Species and What We Can do To Protect Them from Extinction.” My family had put all their resources in getting me a good education, therefore the school I went to was expensive ( the traditional equivalent to good education) and my school friends came in BMWs and Rovers and had a lot of expensive project help. Almost everyone from my class went to the same fancy bookstore to buy the same readymade charts of “Endangered Species” driven by their chauffeurs.
When the submission day arrived, ninety percent of the projects looked identical with the same pictures from the same “high-profile & glossy” Endangered Species chart, with almost no personal thought or understanding of the main topic of extinction and protection. Let´s say most of the projects presented were a traditional form of cut, copy, and paste. However, it was my project that stood out and won the prize.
What did I do differently?
As we could not afford a $20 throwaway on a sheet of paper because of our financial conditions, my mother took me to an old newspaper & scrap shop where all newspapers, magazines, books were given away from the neighborhood offices, libraries, and homes for recycling. Newspapers for more than 10 years. Magazines of science, astronomy, nature, philosophy and history from over a decade. A fortnight before the project, every evening my mother would go for her evening walk and yoga class, and drop me at the old paper and scrap shop. Every evening after school, I not only poured myself into knowledge that was way beyond just understanding endangered species but also developed my ability to think originally, empathically, and present a measurable solution as well combining my thoughts of all.
My project was on display for the entire school as it didn’t have a readymade chart with images, but an applied thought, understanding, and because of the exposure to the ocean of information at the old newspaper & scrap shop, it empowered me with the gift of creativity. Creativity that came from browsing and reading a decade-old material on not just endangered species, but nature, astronomy, earth, and its formation, decades of extinctions and their reasoning. My project didn’t have goody-two-shoe photos of cute dinosaurs that have been extinct with a sticker of their name pasted below their glossy picture cut-out. It had history and reasons for their extinctions with a compilation of real solutions from over a decade, a proof of real movements by activists, and the naked real truth about what we need to see.
What I learned with this early experience was not how to make a creative project from an old newspaper & scrap shop, but how to process multiple combinations of different pieces of information and creatively connect them to one cohesive whole. That was my foundation to being a polymath, where early on I made the best from what I had available to me, to present the best of my cohesive whole. In this case, I made the best from waste, literally. Since then there´s been no stopping. I have almost worked in every industry, strive to excel at multiple passions, and thoroughly enjoy it as well.
While this story can prove that to be a polymath, one´s lack of economic means may not be a hindrance but a tool to being one. According to a recent study of 2018, it is proven that family and financial resources influence the emergency of polymathy.
What makes a polymath?
A George Washington University doctoral dissertation conducted by Angela J. Cotellessa- “In Pursuit of Polymaths: Understanding Renaissance Persons of the 21st Century” is an extraordinary study focusing on the life experiences of modern-day polymaths. Her research focused on accomplished polymaths with careers spanning across the arts, business, and sciences. The participants provided insights regarding their development and lives as polymaths (Cotellessa, 2018). Seven conclusions were drawn from this research that make a polymath
(1) To be a polymath, one must accept not fitting in the typical box and perhaps even embodying apparent contradictions; polymathy is being intrapersonally diverse, in other words, they have diversity within their personhood
(2) Polymaths have a broad pool of experience, and think creatively and strategically, and juggle their many interests and obligations through effective time management
(3) being a polymath can make life richer, but it can also be quite difficult
(4) polymaths are excellent at being analytically creative and often find creative solutions to complex problems
(5) polymathy develops due to a combination of nature and nurture, and polymathy is maintained in adulthood by a willingness to continue to work to improve oneself through self-directed learning
(6) polymath identity is discovered from not fitting in; polymath identity can be difficult to fully own and to explain to others which may result in often being misunderstood by others who are not polymaths
(7) family and financial resources influence the emergency of polymathy.
With the use of the internet and access to a diversity of skills, knowledge, learning and creativity, and the intrinsic human nature of wanting and being more, the era of polymaths has now arrived.
Are you a polymath yourself or know of one?
Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured.
Editor´s Note: Polymath is a special segment by Fuerteventura Times where we bring you weekly articles and inspiration every Monday to become a polymath yourself. As Fuerteventura has given birth to hundreds of modern-day polymaths, this segment is an ode to the brightest minds and thinkers wanting to bring the best of themselves, during this lifetime. Subscribe to our community to receive the latest articles here.
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Transfer of information
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Data protection rights under the GDPR
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(ii) You have the right to learn if your Personal Information is being processed by us, obtain disclosure regarding certain aspects of the processing, and obtain a copy of your Personal Information undergoing processing.
(iii) You have the right to verify the accuracy of your information and ask for it to be updated or corrected. You also have the right to request us to complete the Personal Information you believe is incomplete.
(iv) You have the right to object to the processing of your information if the processing is carried out on a legal basis other than consent. Where Personal Information is processed for the public interest, in the exercise of an official authority vested in us, or for the purposes of the legitimate interests pursued by us, you may object to such processing by providing a ground related to your particular situation to justify the objection. You must know that, however, should your Personal Information be processed for direct marketing purposes, you can object to that processing at any time without providing any justification. To learn whether we are processing Personal Information for direct marketing purposes, you may refer to the relevant sections of this Policy.
(v) You have the right, under certain circumstances, to restrict the processing of your Personal Information. These circumstances include: the accuracy of your Personal Information is contested by you and we must verify its accuracy; the processing is unlawful, but you oppose the erasure of your Personal Information and request the restriction of its use instead; we no longer need your Personal Information for the purposes of processing, but you require it to establish, exercise or defend your legal claims; you have objected to processing pending the verification of whether our legitimate grounds override your legitimate grounds. Where processing has been restricted, such Personal Information will be marked accordingly and, with the exception of storage, will be processed only with your consent or for the establishment, to exercise or defense of legal claims, for the protection of the rights of another natural, or legal person or for reasons of important public interest.
(vi) You have the right, under certain circumstances, to obtain the erasure of your Personal Information from us. These circumstances include: the Personal Information is no longer necessary in relation to the purposes for which it was collected or otherwise processed; you withdraw consent to consent-based processing; you object to the processing under certain rules of applicable data protection law; the processing is for direct marketing purposes; and the personal data have been unlawfully processed. However, there are exclusions of the right to erasure such as where processing is necessary: for exercising the right of freedom of expression and information; for compliance with a legal obligation; or for the establishment, to exercise or defense of legal claims.
(vii) You have the right to receive your Personal Information that you have provided to us in a structured, commonly used, and machine-readable format and, if technically feasible, to have it transmitted to another controller without any hindrance from us, provided that such transmission does not adversely affect the rights and freedoms of others.
(viii) You have the right to complain to a data protection authority about our collection and use of your Personal Information. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your complaint directly with us, you have the right to lodge a complaint with your local data protection authority. For more information, please contact your local data protection authority in the EEA. This provision is applicable provided that your Personal Information is processed by automated means and that the processing is based on your consent, on a contract which you are part of, or on pre-contractual obligations thereof.
California privacy rights
Consumers residing in California are afforded certain additional rights with respect to their Personal Information under the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”). If you are a California resident, this section applies to you.
As described in this Policy in the information collection section above, we have collected the categories of Personal Information listed below in the past twelve (12) months:
- Personal identifiers (such as email address, phone number, etc)
- Person’s characteristics (such as age, gender, etc)
- Biometric information (facial recognition, fingerprints, etc)
- Internet or other electronic network activity
- Purchase history
- Geolocation data
- Education records
In addition to the rights as explained in this Policy, California residents who provide Personal Information as defined in the statute to obtain Services for personal, family, or household use are entitled to request and obtain from us, once a calendar year, information about the categories and specific pieces of Personal Information we have collected and disclosed.
Furthermore, California residents have the right to request deletion of their Personal Information or opt-out of the sale of their Personal Information which may include selling, disclosing, or transferring Personal Information to another business or a third party for monetary or other valuable consideration. To do so, simply contact us. We will not discriminate against you if you exercise your rights under the CCPA.
How to exercise your rights
Any requests to exercise your rights can be directed to us through the contact details provided in this document. Please note that we may ask you to verify your identity before responding to such requests. Your request must provide sufficient information that allows us to verify that you are the person you are claiming to be or that you are the authorized representative of such person. If we receive your request from an authorized representative, we may request evidence that you have provided such an authorized representative with power of attorney or that the authorized representative otherwise has valid written authority to submit requests on your behalf.
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Do Not Track signals
Some browsers incorporate a Do Not Track feature that signals to websites you visit that you do not want to have your online activity tracked. Tracking is not the same as using or collecting information in connection with a website. For these purposes, tracking refers to collecting personally identifiable information from consumers who use or visit a website or online service as they move across different websites over time. How browsers communicate the Do Not Track signal is not yet uniform. As a result, the Website and Services are not yet set up to interpret or respond to Do Not Track signals communicated by your browser. Even so, as described in more detail throughout this Policy, we limit our use and collection of your Personal Information.
We may display online advertisements and we may share aggregated and non-identifying information about our customers that we or our advertisers collect through your use of the Website and Services. We do not share personally identifiable information about individual customers with advertisers. In some instances, we may use this aggregated and non-identifying information to deliver tailored advertisements to the intended audience.
We may also permit certain third-party companies to help us tailor advertising that we think may be of interest to Users and to collect and use other data about User activities on the Website. These companies may deliver ads that might place cookies and otherwise track User behavior.
Social media features
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In compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act, all e-mails sent from us will clearly state who the e-mail is from and provide clear information on how to contact the sender. You may choose to stop receiving our newsletter or marketing emails by following the unsubscribe instructions included in these emails or by contacting us. However, you will continue to receive essential transactional emails.
We offer push notifications to which you may also voluntarily subscribe at any time. To make sure push notifications reach the correct devices, we use a third-party push notifications provider who relies on a device token unique to your device which is issued by the operating system of your device. While it is possible to access a list of device tokens, they will not reveal your identity, your unique device ID, or your contact information to us or our third-party push notifications provider. We will maintain the information sent via e-mail in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. If, at any time, you wish to stop receiving push notifications, simply adjust your device settings accordingly.
We may engage in affiliate marketing and have affiliate links present on the Website and Services for the purpose of being able to offer you related or additional products and services. If you click on an affiliate link, a cookie will be placed on your browser to track any sales for purposes of commissions.
Links to other resources
The Website and Services contain links to other resources that are not owned or controlled by us. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other resources or third parties. We encourage you to be aware when you leave the Website and Services and to read the privacy statements of each and every resource that may collect Personal Information.
We secure information you provide on computer servers in a controlled, secure environment, protected from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. We maintain reasonable administrative, technical, and physical safeguards in an effort to protect against unauthorized access, use, modification, and disclosure of Personal Information in our control and custody. However, no data transmission over the Internet or wireless network can be guaranteed.
Therefore, while we strive to protect your Personal Information, you acknowledge that (i) there are security and privacy limitations of the Internet which are beyond our control; (ii) the security, integrity, and privacy of any and all information and data exchanged between you and the Website and Services cannot be guaranteed; and (iii) any such information and data may be viewed or tampered with in transit by a third party, despite best efforts.
As the security of Personal Information depends in part on the security of the device you use to communicate with us and the security you use to protect your credentials, please take appropriate measures to protect this information.
In the event we become aware that the security of the Website and Services has been compromised or Users’ Personal Information has been disclosed to unrelated third parties as a result of external activity, including, but not limited to, security attacks or fraud, we reserve the right to take reasonably appropriate measures, including, but not limited to, investigation and reporting, as well as notification to and cooperation with law enforcement authorities. In the event of a data breach, we will make reasonable efforts to notify affected individuals if we believe that there is a reasonable risk of harm to the User as a result of the breach or if notice is otherwise required by law. When we do, we will post a notice on the Website, send you an email.
Changes and amendments
We reserve the right to modify this Policy or its terms related to the Website and Services at any time at our discretion. When we do, we will revise the updated date at the bottom of this page, post a notification on the main page of the Website, send you an email to notify you. We may also provide notice to you in other ways at our discretion, such as through the contact information you have provided.
An updated version of this Policy will be effective immediately upon the posting of the revised Policy unless otherwise specified. Your continued use of the Website and Services after the effective date of the revised Policy (or such other act specified at that time) will constitute your consent to those changes. However, we will not, without your consent, use your Personal Information in a manner materially different than what was stated at the time your Personal Information was collected.
Acceptance of this policy
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If you have any questions, concerns, or complaints regarding this Policy, the information we hold about you, or if you wish to exercise your rights, we encourage you to contact us using the details below:
We will attempt to resolve complaints and disputes and make every reasonable effort to honor your wish to exercise your rights as quickly as possible and in any event, within the timescales provided by applicable data protection laws.