So, back in April I commented to a friend on Facebook that I’d had a great birthday — I watched Das Rheingold and Iron Man. Her response was that I am a Renaissance Man. Now, I don’t want to throw the compliment back at her, but I fear that, from the position of accuracy, I am not a Renaissance Man.
I am eclectic.
Now, it’s been about a decade since I read excerpts from Castiglione, The Courtier, or Leon Battista Alberti’s (less than modest) description of himself, but I’m pretty sure that the Renaissance Man had/has a broader array of interests and skills than I do. He was not only interested in reading/writing poetry/history/philosophy, not only in the visual arts, not only in languages, but also in the sciences, in horsemanship, in the art of war.
A Renaissance Man would be a sort of science-engineer bodybuilder who plays rugby and writes haikus. He owns a muscle car whose engine he rebuilt last year on Saturday mornings before reading Tolstoy in the afternoon. His homemade cappuccino is superior, as is his knowledge of the dietary habits of capuchin monkeys. He is also a third-order Franciscan of the order of the cappuccini.
That’s a Renaissance Man.
I, on the other hand, am somewhat eclectic but mostly like the humanities.
I used to read Discover magazine, but stopped for some reason. Or no reason. I don’t even know.
Other than that, I read books — books about history (omnivorously until 1500, then selectively); science fiction novels, fantasy novels, books about the genres of science fiction and fantasy; ancient philosophy, ancient theology, ancient poetry, all ancient literature in fact; the odd graphic novel/comic book; theology — ancient, mediaeval, Reformation, some modern, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox; a growing amount of English classics, from Marlowe and Shakespeare to the Brontes; mediaeval literature, philosophy, historiography, and books about mediaeval literature; and so forth. Very occasionally I read modern poetry. Very. Occasionally.
I like science fiction and fantasy. I like Vikings. I like the Pyramids. I like superhero movies. I used to like Doctor Who. I read some Neil Gaiman. I watch documentaries about history. I also enjoy the history of art — preferably the art itself or documentaries about it. I like visiting cathedrals. And castles. I like Star Trek — classic, TNG, DS9. And the original Star Wars. I can play the clarinet but don’t do it as often as I’d like. I watch Merlin on Netflix. I also watched Daredevil on Netflix. Murder mysteries on TV still draw me in (especially Hercule Poirot, Brother Cadfael, and Richard Castle), and I’m starting to get into the books. I used to Highland Dance. I listen to the Beatles, Wagner, Great Big Sea, Queen, Weber, and some of the music from junior high and high school.
To some, I seem very high-class. I’m the guy whose antique pocketwatch has been at the clockmaker’s for a year, and I’m annoyed about that. I love watching Wagnerian opera. Gustav Holst’s The Planets makes me feel awesome inside. Beethoven and Vivaldi stir my soul. As does Striggio, for that matter. My Goodreads list includes Shakespeare, Milton, and St Augustine. I collect stamps.
But I also have a foot in Geek culture. I’m not fully-fledged — I don’t game, I read comparatively few comic books, I can’t tell you the number of times they’ve killed of Superman or Captain America, I don’t know by heart the lines of The Empire Strikes Back, I don’t wax eloquent about Star Trek unless it’s for a class assignment. But I go to all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, all the X-Men films, all the Batman films, all the Star Treks, all the Star Wars, adaptations of Tolkien, and so forth. I wish I’d caught Jupiter Ascending, and the current trend for robot films intrigues me, even if they’re not all very good. I’m in the midst of the final Pern novel and my next pleasure reading will merge my geekinesses as I read P Craig Russell’s graphic novel of The Valkyrie.
I have broad interests, but primarily within the world of the humanities and in how I choose to entertain myself. Beyond that, the most Renaissancey I get is when I read a book about Michelangelo or visit a Renaissance church. Science? Soldiering? Sports? Not for me. For me — philology, philosophy, and philately.