Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Climactic Duel and the Question of Greatness

            Earlier in the semester, a major discussion in our class centered on the question “what defines good and evil?”  These concepts of good and evil can prove rather ambiguous and difficult to define at times.  I wanted to throw out another often used, yet rarely defined philosophical term: “Greatness.”  The commonly accepted definition of greatness is usually something along the lines of ‘far exceeding ordinary limits.’  Voltaire once made the complaint that these limits are often so poorly defined that “the epithet “great” is often applied to those who possess only mediocrity.”

            While greatness alone is difficult to define, Voltaire goes on to postulate that it becomes much easier to define someone as great when a few restrictions are applied.  Such a restriction could be the profession or art of whomsoever is being touted as great.  For instance, calling someone a great actor, a great scientist, a great writer, etc. provides a whole lot more information than simply calling an individual “great.”  And throughout the history of film, and literature in general, having two “Greats” square off against one another is a timeless motif.  From Hector versus Achilles, to Frodo versus the Ring, our stories throughout time are loaded to the gills with such climaxes.

            Such examples throughout film and television are too numerous to name, but I found an example which has to be one of the most spectacular duels I’ve yet witnessed.  Oddly enough, it’s not in a film or TV show, but a sporting event: a motorcycle race, to be specific (for the record, I know jack squat about this sport).  The race took place in 2009, and saw two legends of the sport duke it out in the final three laps.  The two contestants were Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.  This showdown has it all: two phenomenally talented contestants, plenty of suspense, many exchanges both ways, and dare I say it…elegant beauty.

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