The Guinness Book of World Records, a terrifying glimpse into the darkest recesses of human aspiration, is published in 23 languages and sells about 3.5 million copies a year in over a hundred countries. According to its website, Guinness World Records “aims to inspire ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things.” Whoever you are and whatever your background, you can try and achieve something, no matter how inane, bizarre, dangerous, pointless or just plain stupid. You don’t have to be concerned with improving the human condition in any way. All you need is the necessary hubris and perverseness.
Cycling backwards while playing a violin, crushing eggs against your head or balancing a car on it, growing ridiculously long ear hair… All these and more compete for attention in a ludicrous litany of lunacy. Guinness World Records is not an opportunity to write history. It’s an opportunity to conceal it under a sea of crap.
A couple of years ago, one of the ‘ordinary’ people inspired by the paean to idiocy and excess secured the dubious honour of being included in the book for travelling the farthest distance on a zip wire using hair. Today, Sailendra Nath Roy, a police driver, attempted to improve on his record by crossing the Teesta river in West Bengal, India, suspended by his ponytail tied in a loop. A large number of people gathered on a bridge to watch the feat.
His wife had urged him to quit performing dangerous stunts and Mr Roy assured her that crossing the Teesta river would be his last. It was. Half way through the stunt, he suffered a massive heart failure.
Another sacrifice to the god of vulgar celebrity.