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A friend sent me a recent piece in the New York Times about super-athlete Kilian Jornet Burgada. He leaps tall buildings in a single bound, etc.

Super-extreme sport, the athletic hero, the perfected body . . . are we seeing signs that our post-Christian culture is reverting to classical ideals? That’s the question my friend asked.

Plausible, at least for the upper middle class. We live in a time that worships the perfectly sculpted body, and the masters of the universe see an ascent of Mount Everest as a way to crown their professional success as lawyers, doctors, and investment bankers. In these and other ways, our secular culture adopts old (often modified) ideals. It’s evidence that the trajectory of our time is not toward nihilism but to new cultural norms or revitalized pagan ones that may end up being reasonably functional. Functional, that is, for elites. In ancient Greece the winners weren’t anxious about their dominance.

That worries me. Our new meritocracy tends to see itself as natural rulers, which is of course the same way the ancient Greeks on top saw themselves.

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