The dilemma of specialization versus generalization arises frequently for the mover. The French monk Sertillanges, in a 1920 treatise, addressed this dilemma in the context of prescriptions for intellectual work. Although the text is referring to academic and intellectual material, it seems particularly relevant to projects we take on as movers.
He begins by describing the importance of generalization – “you must follow various paths awhile in order to get the sense of their meeting points; you must try the ground in many directions in order to come up at the deep places.”
But then he believes you must change hats: “Having done that, if you turn your whole attention to digging in the center, the apparent limitation is to the advantage of the whole space, the bottom of the hole reveals the whole sky. When one knows something thoroughly, provided one has some inkling of the rest, this rest in its full extent gains by the probing of the depths. All abysses resemble one another, and all foundations have communicating passages” (That is, by digging deep into one topic, Sertillanges believed that general/universal truths could be revealed.)
He then continues to defend this particular brand of depth – “True knowledge lies in depth rather than in superficial extent. We must always sacrifice extent to penetration, for the reason that extent in itself is nothing, and that penetration, introducing us to the central point of observed facts, gives us the substance of what an interminable pursuit sought to discover”
And so he concludes: “We must keep from specialization as long as our aim is to become cultivated [wo]men, and, as far as concerns those to whom these pages are addressed, superior [wo]men, but we must specialize anew when we aim at being men with a function, and producing something useful.”
Superficially, it could seem that Sertillanges contradicts himself. But actually, he argues for alternating between depth and breadth in a way that is rather elusive. His brand of depth is not that of the specialist; it involves drawing connections across ideas as one digs deep. And as one plumbs the depths and emerges out the “bottom of the hole”, with the sky revealed you can explore again. There is something beautiful in this idea of oscillating between two approaches, but with one state of mind…
Given the common misconception of a movement practice as a mish-mash of disciplines, these ideas could prove particularly useful within the movement culture…