Sorry for the delayed reply on this one.
I do think we agree on rather a lot here. A few thoughts:
1. Seems there are separate questions of "how you model/role-models and heroes/personal identity" and separate questions of pedagogy.
You might strongly seek unifying principles and elegant theories but believe the correct way to arrive at these and understand these is through lots of real-world messy interactions and examples. That seems pretty right to me.
2. Your examples in this comment do make me update on the importance of engineering types and engineering feats. It makes me think that indeed LessWrong too much focuses only on heroes of "understanding" when there are heroes "of making things happen" which is rather a key part of rationality too.
A guess might be that this is down-steam of what was focused on in the Sequences and the culture that set. If I'm interpreting Craft and the Community correctly, Eliezer never saw the Sequences as covering all of rationality or all of what was important, just his own particular sub-art that he created in the course of trying to do one particular thing.
That's my dream—that this highly specialized-seeming art of answering confused questions, may be some of what is needed, in the very beginning, to go and complete the rest.
Seemingly answering is confused questions is more science-y than engineering-y and would place focus on great scientists like Feynman. Unfortunately, the community has not yet supplemented the Sequences with the rest of the art of human rationality and so most of the LW culture is still downstream of the Sequences alone (mostly). Given that, we can expect the culture is missing major key pieces of what would be the full art, e.g. whatever skills are involved in being Jeff Dean and John Carmack.
My perceived disagreement is more around how much I trust/enjoy theory for its own sake vs. with an eye towards practice.
About that you might be correct. Personally, I do think I enjoy theory even without application. I'm not sure if my mind secretly thinks all topics will find their application, but having applications (beyond what is needed to understand) doesn't feel key to my interest, so something.
In light of reading Hazard's Shortform Feed -- which I really enjoy -- based on Raemon's Shortform feed, I'm making my own. There be thoughts here. Hopefully, this will also get me posting more.