A reading of the history of any period will reveal the age’s reverence for wisdom and erudition; those who excelled in these gifts were highly prized and their contributions are remembered with pride in the record of that society. Mankind’s potential for reason and discovery is traditionally been celebrated as evidence of its superiority over the beasts.
Yet, surprisingly and unhappily, society, of late, has demonstrated a downgrading and deprecation of these vital and beneficial attributes.
The first time p. heard the newly created word, “Brainiac” as a spoken reference to a knowledgeable person, he was shocked and outraged. The newly created noun was intended as an epithet. This new label has been used it appears, by low information people in a collective and defensive attempt to make a norm of ignorance and a pathology of knowledge. Such current slang is but one example of (to borrow the words of the late and learned Senator Moynihan) the “dumbing down” of society.
Among too many it now seems to be within the acceptable mainstream of society, and even stylish (“cool”), to deprecate the intellectual and offer praise to the self-limited person (especially if the latter is good looking). What is now in vogue is smart phone and cool dude, or cool gal; ” selfies” instead of self- examination, electronics in lieu of conversation-the search for style instead of the pursuit of truth.
This trend is nothing short of alarming and is an effective roadblock to potentiation and self- realization on the part of the individual as well as the quality of a democracy; it makes of the magnificent gift of life, a surface phenomenon; life and the world is left unexamined and potential growth stunted. The result is (in addition to the disinterest in nature, the world and its events) a low interest in life itself and a constant search for short-term stimulation.
The “Brainiac” ( p. is revolted by that word) is the most commendable member of society and predictably lives a fuller and more fulfilling life with the potential of real understanding and enduring joy. But we seem to be dealing with a species that is contracting and has become endangered.
Fortunately, albeit limited in number, we still have certain institutions of learning which maintain a “core” curriculum mandating the study of the liberal arts and sciences. Exposure to such studies is broadening and enlightening; it counsels meaning and purpose. The preparation for a job or calling which should follow will also be enabled by such studies. Higher education should exemplify the goal of the enrichment of the individual and not be limited to the purpose of job preparation.
The individual and the nation cannot achieve the highest potential where people sacrifice self-examination in favor of “selfies.” Maybe everyone should strive to be a brainiac.