solitary mind

Individual Power

It is fairly easy to understand how someone primarily interested in solitary pursuits would become both better at them, and worse at social pursuits.

It is in everyone’s interest to appear as good as possible at everything one can, however.  Social people are just as keen to appear good at solitary pursuits as their less social cohorts.

However, social people are inherently superior at presenting themselves to people in whatever way is useful, in ways both conscious and unconscious.  If they can obtain the benefits of seeming good at things, without spending the time to actually be good at them, that’s a huge advantage.

But it’s not that it’s simply unfair, though: social skills have a rather large investment and maintenance cost, just like academic pursuits.  They seem to require many different areas of the brain to work together well, and this presumably requires vast amounts of time to both develop and maintain.

The Power of Civilization

In a world composed purely of social hierarchy, the situation for people not interested in social dominance is hopeless.

Civilizations, at the times and places in their lives where they advance, do so because they have some quirk about them that enables localized subversion of social hierarchy, such that a safe harbor exists for dedicated intellectuals.

As an example, the renaissance in Europe could be viewed as a competition between competing European heads of state over whose academics and artists produced the most powerful and interesting things.  The battlefield was sometimes figurative, and sometimes literal, as technological advancements, driven by the products of academia, took on ever more increasing importance in both warfare and economy.

Prior to the renaissance, the church at least provided a safe harbor for philosophers to spend their time deep in thought.  Perhaps an excessive amount of time was wasted trying to come up with proofs of the existence of god, but at least people were thinking about big things.

Any time non-competitive people have been given refuge to think in peace, their civilization has advanced.

The Conflict

It seems that, generally civilization is a sort of forced response to threats to survival.  Nothing much really matters, as long as no one is invading, and no one is starving.

That is the main resonance of civilization; rising in response to threats, falling in their absence.

The higher they rise, the harder they fall.  No one is in control of this process; it simply happens, and we are along for the ride.

To tie this all together, it is probably then in the best interest of academic individuals to align themselves with cultures that presently, and as far into the future as possible, must struggle, and have institutions that support that struggle, wherein safe harbor is given to those in purely academic pursuits.

If you are in a country where everything appears to be light and easy, and there seems to be no advantage to actually doing anything meaningful other than social posturing, it’s probably because that country is in economic free-fall.

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