Limits: We All Have Them, Only Some of Us Know Them
Following her chapter on the giving of formal dinners, Emily Post advises on the far more regular act of giving an intimate, informal dinner. In these cases, staff and variety of food are often much more limited. The entire tone of this quick chapter is one that suggests the importance of working thoughtfully with one’s limited resources. Post stresses this over stretching one’s abilities and the abilities of one’s staff in order to impress.
Post’s advice seems particularly apropos in the light of the recent Fyre Festival disaster. For readers who don’t, Fyre Festival was the promise of luxury music event conceived by Ja Rule and Billy McFarland just last year. Despite never having hosted a music festival or developed an island (the event was to take place on an island in the Bahamas), the duo promised an unparalleled, cashless experience during which guests arriving from far and wide would enjoy countless amenities. Instead, they arrived to find tents, wet blankets and boxes of goods, the provision of which seemed more like a refugee camp than a top tier resort.
Social media has fueled a quick fame mentality that already ran strong in our country’s heritage. We praise people who seem to fearlessly conquer the world. While it is admirable to push one’s boundries and attempt that which has not been done before, it is fool-hearty to think one could pull off something ambitious with no former experience and little help. We are reminded of the Chicago World’s Fair, described so well in Eric Larson’s The Devil in the White City. By no account was this event ready to open on time, despite the hype that had been broadcast throughout the nation. Yet, the event was a tremendous success, bringing together more people than had ever gathered in a single place in history.
Here’s the difference between Fyre Festival and The Chicago World’s fair. The latter was planned by the nations’ greatest talents in architecture, landscape design, engineering and other fields. It was a huge and reaching effort, but it was not a shot in the dark. Daniel Burnham, the Fair’s lead architect was onsite from sun up to sun down almost every day for a year before its opening day, directing teams of thousands of skilled laborers. Though the grounds were reported to be lying in ruins the night before the fair’s opening, there were so many workman of such high caliber able to work through the night, when the crowds arrived the next morning the site they behold was more wondrous than any they had previously known. By contrast, both McFarland and Ja Rule admit they knew nothing of what it took to put on an event of such scale.
For those caught by this desire to achieve greatness overnight, we recommend reading The Agony and the Ecstacy, Irving Stone’s biographical novel of Michelangelo’s life. Arguably the most celebrated artist in western history, Michelangelo dedicated every waking moment of his life to his craft. Learn from him and learn from Emily Post. Use what you have and take your time to cultivate greatness.
The Brothers Spalding