I’ve always wanted to be a renaissance man. This idea came about in college when I started studying languages. I was so enraptured by my study abroad in Toledo, Spain that it changed the course of my life. The history, the culture, a new language were things I had never experienced before and here I was getting them all at once.
I remember walking down the cobble stone streets thinking about the countless generations over two thousand years who had walked over the same stones or at least the same path. What those stones must have seen. If you go into the cathedral you’ll see paintings of one bishop after another that must easily stretch over 500 years. Ohio, where I’m from only became a state in 1803 and the oldest thing I can think of built by Europeans is German Village but that only came about in the mid-19th century. The absolute oldest place I can think of is Old Man’s Cave but those are just caves and I’m not sure if the Native Americans lived there or not.
But back to Toledo I remember hearing that in the church next to our dormitory they had knocked down a wall during renovations and discovered the room of a mosque. This fascinated me, to know that there were places hidden like this and so ancient that people don’t even know they are there. It is an inhabited archaeological treasure with many secrets yet to be revealed. I remember reading Don Quixote and he spoke of La Calle de Pescado which I walked everyday. In fact, I wanted to be like Don Quixote.
The superficial reader will just see him as a crazy old man but he wasn’t so crazy to me. Here was a man who lived the life we wanted to lead, be damned what the world said. Like the knight Amadis de Gaul he wanted to be strong, a scholar, chivalrous, brave and always seeking adventure. This is what I wanted for myself.
My first step was in learning languages and I had such a fantastic time learning Spanish I followed up with French and Spanish. I was on my way to becoming a Renaissance Man. I understood not only the language but the culture.
After graduation I went to Japan and this too was an adventure. I was happy that I was continuing on with my true passion and having adventures. Then it was Vietnam and then finally here to San Francisco where I’ve lived for the past 12 years.
At 42 I’ve realized that a lot of my old acquaintances have lost their zest for life, retreating into predictable patterns and just letting life take them where it will, which is pretty much the same day after day. I too fell into this pattern for a while but now that that I’m a bachelor for two months I have time to explore, to learn and to reflect.
Through technology I found that I have a large interest in investing. It is presented in a clean, easy to understand format and the amount of information once can easily read in just 15 minutes is remarkable. So I invested and my investments shot up!
It was in investing that I began to think about being a Renaissance Man again. I had not thought about it in a long time so I assessed my progress. For strength I’ve been in karate for almost three years now and the time has flown by. I’m proud of the progress my son and I have made and I have grown stronger over the past three years without realizing it until the last Fighter’s Cup. I wasn’t as nervous as I was before and I did a decent job. It is something most guys only attempt once but I’m not afraid of doing it year after year.
As for language I retain my Spanish pretty well and still have passable French. I do speak Japanese daily and am confident in my abilities. But I had not taken the time to notice that my language abilities is something I should be proud of in a long time. When I was younger my languages were a point of pride, something that strengthened my identity. But that feeling has long since faded and now it just *is* without any special feelings about it.
But with this time to reflect I should be pretty proud of myself. I have the languages, I have karate and now I have a sense of confidence in investing. I have a wonderful family, a great job and an incredible house. I had just not taken the time to reflect and be grateful for all of this until recently. I have become a Renaissance Man without realizing it.
To add to this feeling I also finally have time to read books. I just wrapped up a book on Kyrgyzstan and have started to re-read The Tale of Genji. This reinforces the intellectual side of what a Renaissance Man should be.
Again, at the age of 42 it seems men in particular lose zest for life and it takes a conscious effort to bring it back. I’ve found that zest with working out more than before, reading my books and learning new things. I guess that with kids all of this is just difficult since during the normal part of the year we have a demanding schedule and there just isn’t time to pay attention to all of these things. Therefore I’m very thankful for this time. But it takes discipline because the natural motivation that comes when you are young seems non-existent now. I was easily excited and motivated when younger but now would almost rather take a nap. But if I do that then I will make no progress and find it easy to fall into a slight depression. So I make myself get into the gym, go to karate and pick up that book.
I’ve always wanted to be a Renaissance Man and I just need to take the time to realize that is what I have become. At 42 it takes effort to continue learning, to continue exercising but now I’ve got momentum and don’t want it to subside. I do miss the interaction with other international people. It was such fun going out in a foreign city drinking beers with the guys and girls while we were all single and the night was full of things that could happen. I can still drink with the guys but the excitement of having the girls join us no longer is possible. So I focus my thoughts inward, in meditation, in study and self reflection. This is an ample substitute and creates a unique sense of fulfillment.
Well, that is all for now. I think I’ll either read more of my book or watch a movie on my list. Tomorrow I’m going to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk by myself to ride the scary rides I don’t get to when I’m with the family. Just because I’m 42 doesn’t mean I should just turn the world off and wallow in the fact that I’m no longer 19. Keep living and make the effort to do so. It keeps you young.