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Ostomy Memories of Expertise


Lawyers joke that an “expert” is someone from out-of-town. They arrive to testify regarding their specialty and, just because they came from, say, Washington, D.C., they have an extra measure of credibility. Jurors are impressed that they came all that way just to help them understand what happened in the case.
But everyone ought to be an expert at something. White collar or blue, urban or rural, over-educated or not, every person can be expert at something.
I get a kick out of Clint Eastwood's character in the flick “In the Line of Fire” where he plays an aging, antisocial Secret Service agent. His expertise, of course, was protecting the President and, as a sidelight, playing jazz piano (as Eastwood actually does). But he didn't stop there. In the final scene, predicting the actions of some pigeons at the Lincoln Memorial, he says to René Russo, “I know things about pigeons, Lilly.” Nothing is too mundane to be expert at.
Some people are expert at board games like chess or Scrabble. Some people have enviable mechanical ability. Some people can locate a needle in a haystack and thread it with one eye closed. The point of expertise, in whatever area, is that it gives life substance and provides a feeling of accomplishment. Sometimes it can even provide a good living.
To be expert at something is to care. Leo Rosten wrote: “The purpose of life is to matter, to be productive, to have it make some difference that you lived at all.” Happiness isn't fun, he says, it is self-fulfillment which “is given to those who use to the fullest whatever talents God or luck or fate bestowed upon them.”
It matters not what one's area of expertise is, but there ought to be something about which we care enough to become good at. For instance, I happen to be a crackerjack dish washer. I pride myself on this ability, I shun the automatic dishwasher, and I won't permit my wife to do it. It's my area of expertise. If she attempts to horn in, I just shoo her away and tell her: “I know things about dishes, Lilly.”

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Hello HenryM. 

Thanks again for a great post and a prompt to take me down memory-lane. I recall the first book I ever read, which was 'Mr. Mygale's Hobby'. This book was already ancient when I picked it up in a secondhand shop in the 1950's. Mr. Mygale was an expert on ants, and he made out a brilliant case for everyone to be interested in their social systems and behaviours.

Because I still remember it, I must suppose it may have had an early influence on the development of my own expertise, which tends to be in animal and human social systems, psychology and behaviour. 

I do agree with your assertion that different people can achieve expertise in a variety of different areas and I find myself sometimes being very envious of their skills and abilities. 

In this context, I also recall a severely disabled lady client of mine who offered her expertise in 'teaching' newbie-carers how to be respectful and helpful to disabled people, without being patronising or offensive.

I placed several 'students' with her over the years and they all reported back how educational, pleasant and positive their experience had been.

There have been occasions when I have felt the need to question the motives and efficacy of so-called 'experts' and these experiences have prompted a few rhymes. I cannot resist the temptation to share long-lost rhymes, so below are a couple which have remained hidden for a few years.

Best wishes



They try to imply that only ‘they' know,
dogmatically stating that this and that's so.
Of what they believe and what they are sure
‘we' might perceive as a load of manure.

When using the term much more can be seen
in this ‘expert' I find a refresher.
Coming to learn – ex equals has-been
and a spurt is a drip under pressure.

                                    B. WITHERS 1992
(in- ‘In-verse Feedback: An Alternative Psycho-Social Therapy?' ' p61.)


Beware the expert – only they
think they have the right of ‘say'.

Beware the racists – black and white
who try to lure you to their fight.

Beware the ageists – young and old
who wish for you to join their fold.

Beware the sexists – ether kind
who wish to share their twisted mind.

Beware the bigot and the freak
who think that only they should speak.

Beware of class distinctions too
which support a privileged few.

Beware all selfish human traits,
Beware, lest they contaminate.

                              B. WITHERS 1993
(in- ‘In-verse Feedback: An Alternative Psycho-Social Therapy?' ' p62.)


Hi Henry,  I hesitate to call myself an "expert" at anything, but I will confidently take on all comers at a game of Rock Trivia.

Bests regards,



Are we talking geology here, or classic rock music? 


The latter.


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