Not genius but a broader ecosystem of the arts seemed more under threat today.

Needing to kill a few minutes I arbitrarily pulled something from my shelves, which turned out to be Henry Miller’s book on Rimbaud, The Time of The Assassins. How this brought back to me ideas I’d entertained twenty and thirty years ago! There was no useful place in the world for the genius. The genius was too unique and inventive to be employed in any bourgeois labor. The genius had to do the work of a dishwasher, of a stevedore, to get by, roaming the earth on an empty stomach… sort of thing.

What did I think of such ideas now? That perhaps the world had changed somewhat since Miller had written this book: it had grown better at identifying and supporting geniuses — those people in the top one percent of their field — but now tended disproportionately to neglect the artists of the top ten or twenty percent, those who were very talented and/or hard-working but not of the very first rank. Not genius but a broader ecosystem of the arts seemed to struggle with excessive hurdles today, was my opinion. (Though it was also somewhat paradoxically true that the world seemed less interested in Genius today than it was in making sure everyone’s point of view was represented.)

I notice in my book that my younger self has underlined the word recidivist and written in the margins “one who relapses.” And I think to myself that this might be the stuff of a good Legend of Sisyphus remake: in which over the course of a man’s life he knows the meaning of the word recidivist right up until the very moment that he reads it or hears it in conversation, whereupon all knowledge of it totally vanishes — he may even think it means revanchist for a while — and he has to look it up again. After he has looked it up, he knows it until the next time he needs it, at which point the cycle repeats. But this only occurs for forty years, let’s say, — no need to drag it out through eternity.

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