August 24: king of hedgehoggery

Bertrand Russel is known for separating people into hedgehogs and foxes. He is taking the idea from Archilochus, as he notes himself. The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing. So, Shakespeare would be a fox and Patrick Modiano a hedgehog. Some people thrive as hedgehogs; some as foxes. I’m a bit of a hedgehog in many ways. I try and specialise in a limited number of fields, working within a narrow band width. There are a lot of things I don’t do and won’t try. Somebody said why don’t I learn to ride a bike, something I have never done, and I say no I do other things. My band width is wide enough. I think maybe in conversation I am a fox. I can switch through from trivial to serious and feel comfortable in both, even happy to mix them so it’s not clear what my intention is. I don’t mind it being ambiguous. My brother is the king of hedgehoggery. His band width has become a narrow strip. He is more like a snake or a shark. His focus on what his preoccupations are has become such that, like the snake or the shark, he will eschew almost everything for high performance or at least high focus in just one or two things. In conversation he is an efficient killing machine. It’s a bleak road but someone has to tread it.

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