2013 Reading books

Reading 2013: The Renaissance Soul

July 16, 2013


My childhood choices of life-path were somewhat limited in my religious upbringing, but even as a child, I dreamed of following a variety of passions. My dad prayed for me to be a pastor’s wife or missionary’s wife, but being a medical missionary seemed permissible to be included under those to options, so that was my hope. I also thought teaching would be cool, but that I could pick that up along the way–after all, my mom was a teacher, was my line of thinking. In high school, I requested to learn Koine Greek (though that idea was shot down until college), and in college I took a wide variety of classes beyond what was listed for my science major and psychology minor. I requested to do a double major, though that wasn’t an option at my college at the time.

Even early on, I had heard of the term “renaissance soul,” but just thought it was a descriptive of someone who could do a lot of things all at the same time. My college years were filled with trying to get involved with a few too many opportunities at “The Opportunity Place,” and to some degree my conscience was bound to think it was my spiritual obligation to be overcommitted in some areas, while still leaving off other activities I would have loved to pursue.

With lots of different messages being fed to me and lack of  self-discipline and organization, I would have loved to have had The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One before heading to college. However, I realize that, barring tragedy, I still have a few years ahead of me during which to pursue any number of passions, and the concepts this book presents are never too late to learn. Nor is the book geared only for high-school, or even college graduates.

Margaret Lobenstine deals with a number of misconceptions about renaissance souls, but also helps point out ways that renaissance souls can overcome common weaknesses often brought about by internalizing conflicting messages.

Sometimes it is discouraging to think I’ll soon be in my thirties and still haven’t even touched on a lot of areas I’d like to learn about. Like many of the other books I’ve read on simplicity, business, and entrepreneurship, The Renaissance Soul emphasized the importance of pacing and plodding and working to figure out the best way to pursue the talents, hobbies, and pursuits one loves. Doing two or three things at a time and then changing through the years will work; trying to pursue fifteen passions at one season of life will not.

Lobenstine frequently draws on the life of Mozart to represent one-career, one-passion people, while using Ben Franklin and DaVinci as representatives of what a gifted renaissance soul can accomplish. (Although she uses them as examples, she reminds her readers that those in each category will not often be quite as gifted as these men, though some may be even more so!) Renaissance souls love a new challenge, problem-solving, and learning as much as possible about the world around them. Within that spectrum, there are countless possibilities of what one’s life will look life, and renaissance souls don’t have to be of one personality type: there are extroverts and introverts, disciplined and disorganized, driven and content. (And though renaissance souls often are gifted and interested in more than one main area, there are still those who may stay in the same “official” career for their entire lives, while unofficially pursuing many other hobbies and talent-investments.)

Many principles found in this book can also be found in popular productivity books, yet The Renaissance Soul offers advice specifically geared to those who hope to pursue a diversity of interests. At times the book seems a bit tedious to work through (one reason it took me so long to finish), and some of the anecdotes drag on; but overall, the book is filled with helpful information and strategies for anyone who thinks they might be classified as a renaissance soul.

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