This post was originally posted on LinkedIn Pulse (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/you-expert-emilio-mordini)
In my LinkedIn profile, I define myself as an “expert”. Not very original, isn’t it? Indeed, other 855.522 LinkedIn users define themselves as experts. The world is definitely crowded by experts. What is an expert?
The dictionary reads that an expert is a person wise through experience. The English word “expert” comes from Latin expertus, the past participle of the verb experiri, which means, “to try in different ways”, in order to overcome a challenge. Ancient Greeks used a similar word, empeiros, which ultimately derived from the verb peirao (to attempt). Both Latin and Greek terms are likely to originate from an oldest Indo-European root *pe(i)r, which expressed the idea of “beyond”. In Latin, this root gave also origin to periculus (peril), pereo (to pass away), partus (that gives birth to, childbirth), porta (that takes beyond, i.e., gate, door), peritus (skillful), pirata (someone who trespasses the bulwark of a ship, i.e., a pirate). In Ancient Greek, the root *pe(i)r generated the verb peirao (to attempt to go beyond a problem, and thus, simply “to attempt”), and the verbpeiro (to pierce through, to spit). In turn, peiro generated the nouns peran(across) and peras (end, extremity), which, by adding the privative pre-fix “a”, became a-poria (without passage, i.e, uncertainty) and a-peiron (without a beyond, i.e., infinite).
The idea of experience has thus to do with the spectrum of meanings related to the idea of “beyond”. In other words, the expert is someone who deals with a “beyond”. There are two types of “beyond”. There are big “Beyond”, written in capital letters, such as Nation, Offspring, Afterlife, Future, Progress, Humanity, or even Socialism (I must confess that I’m a bit suspicious of them). Then, there are “beyond” written in small letters: beyond my problems, beyond our pleasure,beyond that incomprehension, beyond your reproach, and so. Big and small “beyond” are more essential to us than the air that we breathe, because they allow overcoming a present state of affairs. They create horizons – small or big horizons – but always horizons. Each horizon is indeed the joint between a “within” and a “beyond”. As the two faced Janus, the horizon looks both backward and forward. When it looks backward, it tells where you are, and, by using the horizon as a reference, you could locate yourself. When it looks forward, the horizon allows you to dream – sometimes to fear – of the unknown. If the skyline were a complete conclusion, we would be walled up alive in our grave. If the horizon were unconditionally open, there would be only an infinite, endless, “here and now”. Human beings cannot put up both with the nothingness of complete conclusion, and with the infinite of unconditional openness. The horizon is ultimately their sole possibility. In fact, when the horizon comes unstuck, when “within” and “beyond” disarticulate themselves – i.e., when the time is out of joint – nonsense infiltrates their life. Continue reading