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One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. -Nietzsche

  November 8, 2011


For centuries we had intellectual and cultural standards. A gifted person wishing to participate in the community needed to reach these standards, or else remain silent, under pain of appearing ridiculous, lazy, and obnoxious. Trivial efforts were not even debated because they were considered transparently lacking in substance.

This rigor yielded great works of art, literature, and philosophy for centuries, many of which are classics and remain definitive. Surely trivial works also were created during this period, and were quickly and graciously forgotten.

As standards relaxed and trivial works became the standard, there was a rapid retreat of intellectuals and artists from the public realm. Suddenly no intellectuals comment on a nation's political events and future, and no artists appear active, their position overtaken by entertainers. What was once an intellectual class became just a few self-isolated intellectual individuals, typically considered annoying by the entertainment classes, even if their assessments are reluctantly deemed correct.

Did this retreat and secession of high activity signify the victory of equality? Or was it merely self-preservation by a fragile minority and realistic recognition that quality was no longer of any public value?

Like distant lighthouses gone dark, that too is a signal.

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