Amateur (non-pejorative)

Another word that’s lost a lot of meaning is amateur. I use the word to distinguish between those who practice an art professionally (it’s how they make their living) and people who do it without compensation. Olympic athletes used to be amateurs. College basketball players are amateurs (although this is a much-discussed topic). [Scripting News]

When I was deeply involved with the Forum and Davos, I tried to encourage what might be termed amateur thinking. For me, one of the great things about the Forum is its amateur approach. I mean that in the sense of love of the task, not hopeless inadequacy. There were always forces within the Forum determined to professionalise and institutionalise what we did. There had to be an algorithm, some thought, for creating the Davos programme.

Guess what? Except in the most meaningless sense, there isn’t. Teams of management consultants (a periodic Forum sin is to bring in the consultants) add precisely nothing. Someone who grew up arguing about Vietnam/Watergate/apartheid/fill-in-your-cause does.

The best things are resolutely amateur, but done with what we now call professionalism. Wayne Booth, a rhetoritician at the University of Chicago, wrote an eloquent paean to this approach in his For the Love of It. As a former, immensely serious amateur trumpet player (strictly classical, I’m afraid), it struck a particular chord for me.

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