Email: A Model of Mastery (14.4.2021)

An Ancient Sage – Indifferent to Worldly Matters…

Dear Gillian 

Genuine mastery seems to involve the individual concerned being ‘detached’ from the subject matter they understand. There is a) the person, b) the specialised subject matter, c) a lucid (intimate) understanding, and d) a complete ‘detachment’ from the entire process involving an advanced understanding, accessing reliable data at will and with a fluent ease, whilst actively (and effectively) participating in cutting-edge research which moves the over-all academic standing of the subject matter forward. Of course, being an ‘expert’ nowadays does not have to involve this type of ‘mastery’, as our society tends to favour the ‘exact opposite’ in its leading academics and highly-skilled technicians, etc. As the capitalist system emphasises ‘accumulation’ of profit – this is demonstrated within academia (and elsewhere) as a state of permanently ‘advertising’ one’s knowledge – as if wearing a placard across the chest highlighting all your academic achievements and when they were acquired, etc. However, within the best hallowed halls of academia (Oxford) there is still a discernible ‘distancing’ between the ancient ‘love of knowledge’ and the fabricated ‘desire for profit’. As far as I am concerned, the best masters (regardless of their subject or activity, etc) are defined by their ‘disinterestedness’ toward their particular area of expertise. It is as if there is ‘knowledge of a subject’ – whilst ‘no-one’ possesses it. In this way, we are all free. 

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