Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Taste of Greatness

I saw an ad tonight in which Miller Lite--quite possibly the worst beer I have had in more than 30 countries of drinking experience--has claimed "Taste Greatness" as a trademarked tag line for its product.  One could say that this fact has demeaned greatness itself, but it is more like a testimony for the difficulty of getting a handle on what the word, and the concept behind it, really means. 

There was a coincidence for me, as I was pondering a post on the topic of Greatness at this time.  The Tao Te Ching, at least in some translations, includes a line to the effect: 
How to describe the Tao?  In a word, "great".
Of course, this is not the same "great" as Tony the Tiger's Sugar Frosted Flakes (sorry if you readers are too young for that reference).  It is not a synonym for "famous", or "celebrated".  I would describe that meaning as something like "larger than just 'large'" (like Great Britain?), whereas its usage today basically means "better than just 'good'".   Common examples are the description of a "great" teacher, or a "great" parent (or a "great" kid!)  

I suppose Miller Lite has "earned" its right to claim Greatness through its preceding high-profile campaign on the controversy of "Tastes Great vs. Less Filling", though I would suggest "Tastes Filling--Less Great" was always closer to the truth. 

I saw that ad on Game 1 of the NBA Championships.  It was used on that telecast to refer to the likes of Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, in their aspiration to place themselves and their team in the Pantheon of Greatness with past NBA champs.  Of course, I'd have to admit both of them are already Great--by any definition limited to the realm of basketball--as are most NBA players, when compared to the millions (tens of millions?hundreds of millions?) of wannabes in the sport.

Here's the salient point, to me:  I think I've always hungered for Greatness, though it conflicts directly with my preference for obscurity. I've seen more than enough people ruined by their fame and the wreck it makes of their lives, and I want no part of it.   Getting back to the Tao, the trick is to have the Greatness, both within oneself and also somehow manifest in the real world, without the crushing weight of being recognized personally as being Great (like Alexander of Macedonia--"great" example!)  

Maybe in today's society a good example is someone like Thomas Pynchon.  Yes, I'd say he is a role model for me. 

Finally, an ad I did think was "great":  A series of close-up pictures of people with youth and vigor.  A message that "we are more than our past, than what has happened to us"--a perfect inspiration for those who have been victimized, or those who have suffered financial ruin in the current economic crisis.  The surprising source of this ad is revealed at its end:  The Church of Scientology!  I wouldn't have thought they had it in them, to go so publicly and upfront, with such a message. 


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