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Friday, August 22, 2008

Vonnegut on the moderately gifted person

tapdancer, source: wikipedia
I think that could go back to the time when people had to live in small groups of relatives--maybe fifty or a hundred people at most. And evolution--or God or whatever--arranged things genetically, to keep the little families going, to cheer them up, so that they could all have somebody to tell stories around the campfire at night, and somebody else to paint pictures on the walls of the caves, and somebody else who wasn't afraid of everything and so on.

That's what I think. And of course a scheme like that doesn't make sense anymore, because simply moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing press and radio and television and satellites and all that. A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but the world's champions.

The entire planet can get along nicely now with maybe a dozen champion performers in each area of human giftedness. A moderately gifted person has to keep his or her gifts all bottled up until, in a manner of speaking, he or she gets drunk at a wedding and tap dances on the coffee table like Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers. We have a name for him or her. We call him or her an "exhibitionist."

How do we reward such an exhibitionist? We say to him or her the next morning, "Wow! Were you ever drunk last night!"

Kurt Vonnegut - Bluebeard
I was going to say, "but Kurt, now we have the internet where even those moderately gifted exhibitionists sometimes get their five minutes of fame." But someone already beat me to it -- "There ARE a million monkeys sitting at a million keyboards, but the internet looks nothing at all like Shakespeare."

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