Professionals and experts in whatever field are always in danger of exaggerating themselves out of all proportion. No one questions society’s deep need of experts and the specialised knowledge they bring, but when they succumb to the temptation of acting godlike and begin to take up residence on a modern-day Mount Olympus from which their decrees of absolute wisdom resound, that’s another issue.
What happens then is that the average person, or layperson (I don’t like the term), is in danger of being labelled “idiot” and ends up paying homage to the expert, the one who “really knows,” believing they have absolutely nothing to say or contribute. Such subservience to professionalism and expertise can be unhealthy, even dangerous in some cases.
For a large part of my life I’ve been what you might call an expert in my particular field. I have known the headiness and superiority of living the life of a professional, but as age has inevitably permeated mind, heart, and body I’ve come to realized just how little I know. In fact I’ve become far more comfortable with not knowing than with knowing. That’s not to say that I deny all my expertise and the effect it has had on the lives of those around me, but I’ve come to understand that there’s a rich and life-enhancing vein of knowledge and experience in those who are often conceitedly referred to as the average and ordinary person. Such experience also needs to be listened to and valued.
Again let it be said, this does not mean the condemnation of all expertise and professionalism, but rather a plea for an engagement of mutual respect and reciprocity between professional and non-professional. When this kind of encounter takes place, in whatever field of endeavour, marvellous things begin to happen.