Heidi Trautmann

Heidi Trautmann Column 10 - Let’s talk about culture and Guiness World Records

We all have been reading about Felix Baumgarten’s 35 km fall from space, whereupon he entered the book of world records, a list of the most unbelievable, funny, often stupid records you can think of, for example the highest number of toothpicks in a man’s beard… With what we do we add a brick stone to our culture, yes, I believe that. But I question the necessity and deeper meaning of deeds collected in the book of records. But perhaps it is not meant to be part of culture, after all? So I looked it up and found its history on internet: The 55-year history of Guinness World Records began with a single question, the type that has been repeated millions of times at dinner parties, pubs, classrooms and work places across the globe. During a shooting party in County Wexford, Ireland, in 1951, Sir Hugh Beaver - then Managing Director of the Guinness Brewery - asked a simple question: what was Europe's fastest game bird? Despite a heated argument and an exhaustive search within the host's reference library the answer could not be found. Sir Hugh realized that similar questions were going unanswered all around the world, and that a definitive book containing superlative facts and answers would be of great use to the general public. With the help of the London-based fact-finding twins Norris and Ross McWhirter, he set about bringing this definitive collection of superlative facts to reality. On 27 August 1955, the first edition of "The Guinness Book of Records" was bound and, by Christmas that year, became Britain's number one bestseller. Over the intervening years, copies of The Guinness Book of Records - later renamed Guinness World Records - have continued to fly off bookshop shelves. During this time, it has become clear that, to our readers, a world record is more than a simple fact: it's a means of understanding your position in the world… a yardstick for measuring how you and those around you fit in. Knowing the extremes - the biggest, the smallest, the fastest, the most and the least - offers a way of comprehending and digesting an increasingly complex world overloaded with information. In Cyprus we had our dear Peggy McAlpine parachute from about 1000 m at the age of 101 years to defend her title in the book of records. Ok, if that is what she really wants. Why do people do these extreme things without any value for society, at least the most of these records are: Fastest time to swim 5500 m with hands and feet bound – longest distance hopped carrying 50 kg weight in mouth – longest time holding right foot with right hand balancing on a slack line with a bird on shoulder – fastest time to cram into a box – fastest toilet ….Should you feel depressed one morning waking up because everything goes wrong, and you don’t know how to cope with life, then look up these pages full of absurdities and you immediately feel better. All of us are record holders, us ordinary people, but nobody speaks about those who are trying throughout all their life to cope with the struggle of each day, parents who give their last to educate their children, nurses and doctors trying to save lives, people who care for the disabled, teachers engaged in putting children on their way equipped with knowledge, farmers who try to deliver good products, craft-men and artists, musicians and actors, all giving their best as I declared in my review on the latest concert in Bellapais with Rauf Kasimov and his talented students. I also gladly pay my respects to politicians who try to do the best for their country, public officers who don’t forget that they have been chosen to give service to the communities and the endless number of workers who do their duty to help the world to keep turning.

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