In today’s disposable, biodegradable, assembly-line, cookie-cutter society, has the quality of quintessence, this “consummate instance,” this “most perfect manifestation,” this “transcendent specimen,” been lost, sacrificed on the altars of mediocrity and imitation?
Not so, at least not to authors Betty Cornfeld and Owen Edwards. In their wonderful book, Quintessence: The Quality of Having It, they claim that “Quintessence lives, as vitally as ever; it’s just harder to discern amid the undistinguished plenty of our times.”
Cornfeld and Edwards also note that, “With the advent of mass production, the odds against quintessence grow and have continued to grow…Since the Industrial Revolution it has become possible to assume that quintessence is inconsistent with mass production, and the premise is hard to deny.”
Just as the ancient Greeks and Romans believed in the four basic elements of air, earth, fire and water, so many of us today seem to focus on the four elements of volume, profits, cash flow and net worth as the ingredients of success. Little thought seems to be given to the “fifth element,” the quintessential, the quality that separates the very good from the very best.
Today, in our personal and professional lives, can we become that “perfect example,” that “transcendent specimen?” Quintessence is a rare and multi-faceted jewel, “always there to be found. It is the good news, shining through the bad.”
We agree with Cornfeld and Edwards that: “Although quintessence cannot be found in abundance in our claptrap age, its ancient voice still whispers beneath modern exteriors and we do well to recognize it and seek it out.”
Let the quest begin!