An enlightening exercise: look around and characterize the individuals you see. Do it on a logarithmic scale, in bands an order of magnitude wide --- 90% of the population in the first group, 90% of those remaining in the next, and so forth. Pick a dimension to study: ability in music, say, or basketball, or child-rearing, or sculpture, or public speaking ... whatever parameter you like.

Class 0 is most folks; they get by with a Gentleman's C, maybe doing a bit better (or worse) depending on context and mood. "Good enough" is their motto. In Class 1 are the teacher's pets with a mild flair for the subject, the one-in-ten who do pretty well without breaking into a sweat, the natural leaders of a small team working together. Class 2 is composed of the 1% who have real talent or (more likely) who simply enjoy a topic and have begun to work hard at it, studying and practicing without being nagged to do so. In Class 3 are the wiz kids, valedictorians, local heroes, supermoms; they make the community newspapers once in a while as rôle models or marginal curiosities.

On to Class 4, one in 10,000 --- winners of city or state competitions, graduates of the best universities, expert enough to write a book on the subject, maybe teach it to up-and-coming potential aces of the next generation. Then there's Class 5, the masters: roughly a few hundred per major country for many topics. A master makes a living performing, can pick and choose students, gets good press coverage, has a small book written about her, maybe even becomes the focal point for a clan of admirers or wanna-bees ... a mini-cult idol, for a decade or so.

Class 6 members are grandmasters --- one-in-a-million geniuses in their field. They all know each other, or could if they felt like looking up from their work. They're magazine cover subjects, celebrities with their own fan clubs. They make top-ten lists and win their shares of annual big-money prizes. When one dies, the obituary is front-page news.

Now the scale breaks down. Class 7+ are world champions, super-grandmasters, phenomenal talents who are saluted by even the most self-centered of their competitors. They come along every few generations in some specialties, less often in others. Their names become household words, part of the shared culture. They define their topics, rather than vice versa. Off the scale....

(see LensManic)

Saturday, April 01, 2000 at 06:34:08 (EST) = 2000-04-01

TopicSociety - TopicThinking

(correlates: HalfwayPoint, PartyLines, InexhaustibleIntrigue, ...)