a dissection of the word "superior"

Main Entry: su·pe·ri·or 
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin,
comparative of superus upper, from super over, above
Date: 14th century

1 : situated higher up
2 : of higher rank, quality, or importance
3 : courageously or serenely indifferent (as to something painful or disheartening)

consider that last part: courageously or serenly indifferent.
now, these are just impressions and random thoughts i'm having -
in no way do i mean to make a bold statement about these people...

Courageous: Ulysses S. Grant

Courageous: Ulysses S. Grant

that classic, historical, stoic pose of him, and so many former US presidents. i doubt he was going for "indifferent" but when i look at this photo and think that phrase, i definitely think, yeah... i get that. the man was a general, a warrior. but that cocked eyebrow just whispers that he doesn't give a good G*d damn what you think because he can squash you in your sleep like a bug under his heel.

Courageous: Brad Pitt's depiction of Achilles in Troy

Courageous: Brad Pitt's depiction of Achilles in Troy

i'm more referring to Achilles in the first half versus the second - in which Achilles has reached the pinnacle of soldier achievement and has a basic 'whatever' attitude to anyone who tries to teach or lead him. he grows a soul in the second half of the story (nekked chicks do that for some men) and starts to care but it's interesting to consider in the first half the indifference brought about by his suspicion that he's got nothing left to learn or achieve.

Serene: Chevy Chase as Ty Webb in Caddyshack

Serene: Chevy Chase as Ty Webb in Caddyshack

for 85% of this movie, mister Webb coasts along in his reasonably content zen cloud. we can tell he's had to let go of a few things, he seems smarter than every other person in the movie, and he just plain old does. not. care. about what you think, about winning, about the big ol' checks he has not yet deposited that litter his apartment. and yet despite his low key demeanor, every person knows who he is and the rumors of what he can do. he's serenely indifferent, but is still everyone's hero.

so when is superiority a good thing?

we have the positive
...i think that person is just superior
...or that product is superior in its class

versus the negative
...he's acting all superior
...they think they're superior

yet mirriam webster puts a tension into it - courageous versus serene.
two kinds of indifference.

zen monk.
general pre-battle.
the calm before the storm.

what does this make you think of?