Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The World's Greatest!

A few weeks ago, it was the world’s biggest bowl of taboulleh – made by a Lebanese chef who wanted to wrest the title back from the Turks. And today, it’s the biggest meatball – because the record rightly belongs to the east coast of the U.S., and those Mexican usurpers who stole the title last August have to understand that nobody messes with the birthright of the Italian-American.

Now, I understand national pride associated with traditional foods, and I understand the appeal of seeking world records (while I don’t feel the personal drive, I can intellectually see the appeal behind wanting to be the first or the fastest). But I don’t understand the drive that causes people to combine these two desires (I also don’t understand the need to make the longest paper-clip chain: a record captured by students at Wilfrid Laurier shortly before I attended: my residence don had participated, and told us how cool it was. I was sceptical …). I guess there’s a certain kitschy appeal, but still . . .

The desire to achieve world records of no consequence seems to come from the same place that makes people want to be on reality television: a wish to be special without necessarily having to perfect a skill or craft of any kind. And it’s kind of sad, because fame doesn’t make people special . . . we are all special, intrinsically. I have to admit that I still dream of writing the Great Canadian Novel and/or becoming Secretary-General of the U.N., and it’s partly because I want to be important. But since I will likely not become Margaret Atwood and Kofi Annan’s love child at any point in the near future, I choose to put my energies into small things that can make a difference, instead of grandiose gestures that are ultimately empty.


Lyn said...

Are they empty? What about the joy and delight that they create? What about the fun of it? What about the community and social bonding they create between people who might not otherwise connect? What about the sparks of creativity and ingenuity that are needed to make the world's largest meatball or round of cheese? I ask these questions as a lover of giant roadside monuments, as one who sees them as delightfully creative and with the power to build community. I ask these questions while I wonder, "If the Giant Perogy northeast of Edmonton were edible, how many friends would come together to eat it?"

el Maggie said...

You're a kinder person than me . . . but I still wonder about directing that much energy (and parsley) into these projects. Somehow the roadside monuments make a bit more sense to me because of their permanence. Though maybe the world's biggest meatball is like a mandela that is intricate, but made to be impermanent . . . but I really doubt there's any Buddhist impulse behind it.