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Sir Joshua Reynolds – The Dilettanti Society (1778)

“I believe that in all men’s lives at certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside.” C.S. Lewis (The Inner Ring)

Oh, the lure of the esoteric. What we wouldn’t give to be an insider… to be included… to be counted among the few at the center of it all.

…and the horror of exclusion, what great lengths we go to in order to avoid finding ourselves on the outside looking in.

This age of digital connection has exacerbated the issue. The flow of human interaction has become overwhelming. It’s difficult to perceive lines of demarcation indicating where circles exist, where we can aim our efforts to penetrate. Reasons for false hope are sufficient to keep us in an endless and hopeless pursuit of the inside. But, as Lewis explains in his essay, there really is no center, no inside. As you work your way inward you find still more rings and at some point you will realize that you are seeking what cannot be found. The web is drawing us all into a frantic rush to avoid being left out.

The tools we use to connect with one another these days are powerful indeed. We would be remiss if we did not use them to help us with our work. But, don’t mistake them for a shortcut to the inside.

There is only one way in. Give up your quest for the inner ring and instead…

“make the work your end, (and) you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it.” Lewis

These are the tribes that Seth Godin taught us about. It still pays to do the hard work of becoming a craftsman.