MENTAL "SIDE-HILL GOUGERS"
The spectacle of a virtuoso conducting a symphony orchestra in one of his own compositions is rare enough in itself to cause comment, but when the conductor-composer is master violinist, 'cellist, pianist, and organist, of international reputation as well, the performance is more than unusual. The appearance of M. Georges Enesco last week with the Boston Symphony Orchestra called attention to a versatility which is almost five centuries out of place.
From the death of the "great experimenter", Leonardo da Vinci, down, the tendency of the world has pointed more and more directly to specialization in every field of human activity, and the tendency has only been accelerated by the advance of machinery. The rule of Specialization has been analyzed, preached about, "viewed with alarm" on every side, until even the word has become a commonplace. But it is only when there stands out a great exception to the law, like M. Genesco, that the force of the commonplace is driven home by the contrast.
America in particular has become the stronghold of specialization. The "family doctor" of a generation ago has become a syndicate, splitting up, and classifying every human ailment into as many divisions as the famous butchering industry of the "Principles of Economics." The law firms of the forties where two partners would "stump" the circuit, taking up each case as it came to them, one for the plaintiff and the other for the defendant, have given way to elaborately organized systems, drawing such fine distinctions that the vague general head of Law is lost in the vast number of sub-headings.
What is true in the professions is true throughout American life. The dominant desire is to develop on one line regardless of the consequences in everything else. It is possible to picture human beings of the next century, with the tendency towards specialization carried to its logical conclusion, as mental "side-hill gougers", so much shorter on one side than on the other that they can wind round a hill only one way.
It is a far cry from the many-sided Roumanian virtuoso to the distorted possibilities of the future, but the contrast is striking. It was said that Leibnitz was the last man in the world to "know everything". With the piling up of information it has become impossible for any one to take "all human knowledge for his province", and the reaction has led men to keep their eyes on their own particular furrow without a glance for the next beside them.