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On Being an Expert


Header image from the public domain; source: Andrea Rauch

Today’s post is from Chris in Owatonna

Most of us go through life developing talents, skills, and interests that add to our enjoyment of life or pay our expenses. Some are happy doing relatively simple jobs, happy with their high school diploma or G.E.D., happy to be in the middle of the bell curve of expertise.

But some of us strive to become an expert at one thing: a field of study in college or beyond, a sport, a career, a hobby, a craft, an artistic discipline. Some earn a degree, or a license, or a certificate, or validation from adoring fans if they become rock stars or award-winning actors or world-class athletes.

The other group of strivers usually become experts by default. Often it’s simply for the love of the subject.  Who doesn’t know someone who’s a walking encyclopedia on a certain subject, like a woodworker who can build furniture as good as the masters of centuries past? Or the good cook who tried new recipes, developed new ideas, found a passion for feeding people and then opened their own restaurant without even knowing there is such an institution as the Culinary Institute of America?

Intentional or not, I seem to have earned my expert stripe in an area I hadn’t thought possible until about six years ago–writing fiction.

Yep. Fiction. A novel in fact.

“Big deal,” you say.

And you’re right. There are millions of people in the world who have written a complete book but aren’t entitled to call themselves experts.

“Why?” I hear you ask.

Because they haven’t published the book.

For better or worse, I took that step and published my novel! For people to actually purchase and read. I still shake my head in wonderment as to how and why I came to this point in my life.

I didn’t earn an MFA or Literature degree. I didn’t take master class after master class and earn validation from other experts (most far with far more expertise than I’ll ever have).  I didn’t even answer an ad in the back of a tabloid and get an online degree from “How ta Write Good University.” Nevertheless, I’ve earned the right to  pretend to be an expert in the field of fiction writing because I crossed the line from talking about it and dreaming about it to doing it.

My novel Castle Danger is now available in print for order through your favorite local bookstore ( my preferred  way to purchase books), Booklocker.com, the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites, or the trunk of my car. And I am available for book clubs, bar mitzvahs, coffee klatches, neighborhood block parties, or hardware store grand openings. 🙂

Now that I’ve written a novel I suppose I’m qualified to teach classes or give interviews  on “how to write a novel.” Strangers may regard me with a modicum of admiration or envy or jealousy or dubiousness (THAT guy wrote a novel?? Sheesh!) But I don’t feel any more an expert on writing than I did before I decided to put the darn thing out into the world for public consumption. I wonder if other experts with real degrees, validation, or money in the bank earned from their expert endeavors feel like a true expert. And can anyone ever know everything there is to know about a subject or field of study? I doubt it.

So my question for Babooners is: In what subject, job skill, artistic or athletic endeavor, or hidden talent have you become a de facto expert? Meaning no official recognition by governing bodies, licensing boards, piles of money in a Swiss bank account, or public acclaim and accolades?


A Dust Up Over Dust

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I get all my information about the world through YouTube.

Yesterday, I watched with great interest as a video explained how dust from the Sahara Desert in Africa nourishes the rain forest in South America.

These NASA researchers are doing wonderful things to demonstrate to a selfish and xenophobic public how our small world is truly interconnected. And it got me thinking how unfortunate it is that our culture does not respect the immense value of dust, which is something people love to complain about when they find it in their homes, or when they dress up like cowboys and go out for an evening’s entertainment.

Thanks to these two videos, I had a revelation!

Dust isn’t a problem – it’s a great boon! Phosphorus is only one part of the Gift Of Dust (G.O.D.) bestows on the world. Dust is what we eventually become, so some of the dust blowing across the ocean (and even collecting on my coffee table) is connected directly to my ancestors.

This is something that should humble us and make us grateful!

For this reason, I just told my wife I will no longer try to remove dust from our home, but rather, I will worship it from here on out and leave it untouched.

But instead of honoring my spiritual epiphany, she handed me a rag and some Lemon Pledge, and told me to get to work.

Dr. Babooner, please say I am right so I can show your answer to my wife and prove that she is in the wrong.

Dusty Hubby

I told Dusty Hubby that Dr. Babooner does not like to be used to settle domestic arguments although she realizes this is sometimes the unavoidable fallout that comes with living in the world. In the very same way, dust is unavoidable fallout that apparently does some good in the rainforest, but that does not mean it’s equally useful when it collects on your coffee table. Even if it contains a tiny bit of great grandpa, worshipping the dust in your house is just another way to say you’re devoted to leisure, and your G.O.D. is actually the Lay Z Boy.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?