“Coming first derives most of its meaning from the fact that others will follow. Today is a date to remember that every second counts.”
– ‘In praise of…being second’, the Guardian
On the 2nd of January 2008, a little column, of perhaps about 250 words, caught my attention at the bottom of the Editorial page of The Guardian. The column praised those who came in second. Coming second is of enormous importance – as the column points out – because it makes the coveted prize of coming first even more desired. Sometimes we remember more the runner-up than we do the winner, especially when he or she was so close, and yet so far.
Whenever I got the Guardian consequently, I would read ‘In praise of’ first. I read about the adventurous Casper the communting cat who met his fate in a tragic road accident; the importance of the middle; pencil cases providing us with the excitement of a fresh start; the world changing events of October 1989: the injustices against the Malaysian writer and activist Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin; the economic benefit of unfinished books; and the championing of slugs.
The column praises the underdog (or cat), brings to light a small story or seemingly insignificant thing, or defends a public figure who’s been having a hard time of it lately. Anything can be praised, and that’s what makes the column so entertaining and informative.
I recently got the chance to write ‘In praise of’ at The Guardian HQ. A couple of days before, I had stumbled upon a little museum in Vienna. On 28th of August, this little museum was showcased to the British public, possibly to No. 10, and to the world wide web. Marvellous.
So below is a scan of the paper copy (just click on the link), dear Readers, and you can have a read of it online too. Since print seems to be in decline, having a paper copy of my piece is all the more sacred. Unfortunately it is not all my prose in the column: it has been edited, and a bit more artistic language has been used. Nevertheless, the content and the message are mine.
Long live ‘In praise of…’.