The Allure of the Superlative : Finding Value in the Ordinary

One day last summer, I climbed a mountain. It was a lovely day – if anything a little too hot – and I enjoyed some gorge scrambling, stunning views, and the sense of challenge fulfilled as I reached the top. I sat down to eat my lunch as I admired the view. I was disturbed by only one other person during my break. Yet under a mile away, on a very similar peak, I could see crowds of people. They were coming and going all the time. At one point I tried to count up through my binoculars: there were at least 25 people on the summit at that moment.

The two peaks were very similar: equally accessible, equally scenic, and with similar views. In some respects, the mountain I was on was more impressive than the other. So why should there be such a huge preference for the other, of two virtually equal alternatives? The reason is very simple: that one is the highest peak in England (Scafell Pike); mine was merely the second highest (Scafell).

So this set me thinking. Superlatives are incredibly alluring, aren’t they?

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