Day 65. 67 pages, 31,738 words.
When it comes to the Wasteland, there are only so many experts you can call on for help. Since the Wasteland is nothingness almost by definition, the main prerequisite for being an expert on it is the acceptance of the fact that you’re an expert in nothing, after spending many years studying nothing, and having a keen and active interest in nothing.
That automatically weeds out quite a few specialists and academics. Pretty much all of them, in fact.
“You know the old saying,” the Saint said, seeming as always to have followed my general train of thought, “Jack of All trades, master of none?”
“Sure,” I replied. “It’s usually misquoted as being a warning not to dabble in too many areas because you risk being useless in lots of things rather than-”
“Jack of All trades, master of none, but better than master of one,” the Saint confirmed. “Yes?”
“Right,” I considered myself very much a master of two or three highly specialised – well-nigh esoteric – trades, and only wished I had less cause to use them in everyday life.
I also wished I’d been able to stay at home today, rather than coming out into the blazing white emptiness of the Wasteland, with a bottle of water in one pocket and a jar of more Wasteland in the other. But you don’t always get what you want. And when you do, it’s usually in a tragic and ironic way that would make for a good story with a moral about being careful what you wish for, but in fact absolutely sucks in real life.
“Would it surprise you, Hatboy, to learn that this is also not the complete saying?” the Saint asked me.
“Jack of all trades and master of none, but better than master of one; Jack must have talent and Jack must have wit, for without them his myriad trades mean jack shit,” the Saint said in evident satisfaction.
“I think you made that up.”
“All sayings are made up,” the Saint replied placidly.
“So the lesson is that you shouldn’t be too complacent about knowing a little bit of a lot of things rather than a lot about one thing, if you don’t know enough about any one thing to make yourself useful,” I said.
“Quite so. If you are not sufficiently skilled in your multiple trades, you are probably better off dumping all your efforts into mastery of one that may never be needed,” the Saint spread his hands. “At least that way you have something to put on your business card.”
“But even that’s not the full saying,” I guessed. “Is it?”
The Saint grinned, looked around – we were utterly, transcendently alone – and jumped down from his soap box with a gritty crunch. “Never,” he said. “Better a master of one trade than naught, and better a dilettante absent of thought, than a hater of wisdom and enemy of knowledge, who will eat other’s game and yet scorn those who forage; better a dead man than one who’ll not learn, and better a fool than a flame that won’t burn.”
“And the rest?” I prompted.
The Saint smiled. “The rest will cost you, old friend.”