Just our parents in different circumstances
We spend half our lives believing that we will be exceptional. We tell ourselves that it is just a matter of adopting a few simple principles or perspectives. It is not so much that we think we are better than our parents, but times have changed, we have knowledge, technologies, and enjoy privileges that they didn’t have. Certainly in many cases it was our parents themselves that instilled in us this belief. Now we spend the second half of our lives learning how truly unexceptional we are.
Through a few transpositions effected on the intelligence and character of one relative or another we can derive our own. If we are different than our ancestors and peers it is only due to this or that circumstance or opportunity beyond the direct control of the parties involved. Perhaps it is true as some philosophers have suggested that the purpose of life is but for us to learn just to what degree our movements are hemmed in and determined. Striving toward exceptionality is to imagine lifting ourselves up and away from the masses. But even this is an individuated gesture belaying a general impulse. Isn’t it true that the more an individual is possessed by the desire to be extraordinary the more they enact the designs of the species? We could think here of the peacock.