Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pondering What Makes an Authority...

Miss J and I had an interesting conversation the other evening over coffee and a thunderstorm.  Coffee...conversation...thunderstorm...

does it get any better?  Anyway, among many other earth-shattering and enlightening topics, we discussed what it meant to become an authority? 
This got me to pondering...Hold onto to your seat belts!

Is it experience?  If I've done something long enough does that make me an authority?  But what is long enough?  Six months, two years, twenty years?  I guess it depends on the subject.  Baking cakes should take less time (in theory) to become an expert than, say...planning a robbery.  Unless of course, you've planted a gun inside the cake... Just kiddin'...

I'd definitely agree it takes longer to become an authority on certain things and it's certainly easier to tell if there is  mastery when I can make use of my five senses.  If I can see, taste, hear, touch or smell your talent or lack thereof then it is objective and can be measured quantitatively.  But...what about those pesky little matters that can't be so easily measured, like child-rearing or marriage?

Some things simply can't be measured precisely.  They are far more qualitative and not so straightforward.  In fact, I believe there can be so many variables involved that sometimes it's impossible to be sure about authority until the dastardly deed is done.  How many so-called great parents turn out horrid adult children?  How many supposed excellent marriages falter and fail? 

Would I dare to dub myself an expert on these type of things when my assessment could be ruinously wrong?  Well...maybe...  After all, authority doesn't necessarily mitigate the possibility of failure, does it?

What about age? How old does one need to be to become an authority?  Hmmm...  Again, I believe it depends on the subject.  A 20 something is most likely quite an expert on (everything) all that is trendy, cool, hip and all the rage...( I know, I know, outdated terminology, but I am OLD after all and obviously not an expert!)

Is it therefore, reasonable to expect it would take far more maturity to become an expert on aging gracefully?  Judging by some cranky old geezers, maybe not...

And of course, there are some folks who become authorities through formal education.  However, knowledge, although valuable, can be misleading.  Being "book smart" may sound expert-ish, but don't be fooled.  Knowledge without experience is not complete and can deceive those into thinking they "know it all" when in fact, they've just "heard or read it all".

Methinks it is all rather confus...ticating!!  And...

since I'm not an authority on becoming an authority (which is abundantly clear by my pondering), I thought I'd leave you with a few quotes... could there be truer words spoken...
  • No statement should be believed because it is made by an authority.
    Hans Reichenbach
  • Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.
    Charles De Gaulle
  • “Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.” 
    Henry David Thoreau
  • “The disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority.” 
    Stanley Milgram

Ta Ta!