My father once called me a dilettante which my very old Webster’s dictionary defines as 1.a person who loves the fine arts or 2. a person who follows an art or science only for amusement and in a superficial way; dabbler ; trifler. I knew Daddy was thinking along the lines of that second definition although I never felt his judgment of me was quite so harsh.
I didn’t take the criticism seriously. Dilettante is, after all, such a pretty word. It comes to the English from the Latin (by way of Italian, the most beautiful language, I think) delectare, to charm, delight.
As an adolescent, first, and then as a young woman, I wanted to understand things. I indulged in dilettantism because of my insatiable curiousity; at 65, I find my curiosity is unabated. Indeed, it has become obsessive. But why?
I have always been more observer than participant. At least, that's how it seems to me and it's not something I'm proud of or even happy about. Too much cognitive dissonance in general interrupted by moments of profound connection... With what?
And then the other things, the occasional recognition, for example, of another consciousness, another pilgrim in the way, an exemplar or a witness. Or the title of a book, or a stranger's face or the voice of a writer, the strength and certainty beneath the words, something about the sound, the quiet sound of the storyteller's voice.
Everything is so tentative and time is moving so fast...
Perhaps I am not a dilettante. At least not according to the dictionary cited above. A more recent edition even reverses the order of the two definitions giving more emphasis to superficiality than to love.
If I am a dilettante, it is only in the following sense: I have no expertise, no academic discipline, no mastery of craft or technique.
I am just a human being. I am a sojourner, a traveller through time; I want to know, I want to find, I want to see.
What is Real?