By Dipesh Navsaria

What is a siruclast?  A siruclast is my coined term for “silo breaker”, from Latin sirus (meaning “silo”) and clast (meaning “to break”).  As our world has become more specialized, the result is that more and more people have become highly expert in their chose fields — but very poor at understanding anything more than the basics of any other fields, even when those areas are closely related.

Gustav Doré’s Death of Samson, 1866 (referring to John Milton’s Samson Agonistes.)

Samson?  Siruclast.

On one hand, this isn't a bad thing — there are plenty of situations where depth is far more critical than breadth.  However, when depth is primarily valued, we have problems that arise when we fail to see the connections between things.

Additionally, we tend to divide fields by traditional lines of study, which can have the effect of subdividing some fields in haphazard ways.  Children's literature, for example, may “live” within universities in departments of English, Education, or Libary Science — all of which are very different disciplines.

Who would have ever guessed that the disciplines of neuroscience and endocrinology would have deep, important connections with criminal justice, education, and cardiology?  There is immense value to understanding at least some aspect of what other fields of study do, and to knowing what is considered key in their fields.

Our division into various academic departments, fields of study and professions means we work in parallel on similar issues but never stop to talk to one another, read each others' work, and learn from each other.  Our very language and publication practices are almost custom-designed to prevent interdisciplinary, cross-cutting work from ever becoming reality.

There's great value contained within in-depth knowledge and understanding.  Let's also realize that there is equally great value in broad-base thinking and making the connections via different schools of thought and approaches to problems.

Be a siruclast.

[Samson] with head a while enclin’d,
And eyes fast fixt he stood, as one who pray’d,
Or some great matter in his mind revolv'd. 
At last with head erect thus cryed aloud,
Hitherto, Lords, what your commands impos’d
I have perform'd, as reason was, obeying,
Not without wonder or delight beheld.
Now of my own accord such other tryal
I mean to shew you of my strength, yet greater;
As with amaze shall strike all who behold.

                      — John Milton, Samson Agonistes, lines 1636–1645


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