Everything is sacred

Jon Hanrahan

Two Fridays ago, Trivia Grand Master Ethan Landes concluded a speech in Andrew Commons by proclaiming, “Nothing is sacred.” With all due respect to the venerable Grand Master, I intend to demonstrate the error of his words. The Grand Master’s own Great Midwest Trivia Contest serves as unquestionable proof of his proclamation’s inaccuracy

An object becomes sacred as the result of human thought and action. For instance, many have deemed cattle to be sacred; others have chosen horrifyingly bland wafers and even fewer, human blood. These groups have strict guidelines as to the consumption or non-consumption of these objects. Whether or not the reader abides by any of these doctrines-this author happens to vehemently oppose the consumption of all three-the powerfully sacred quality of such symbols cannot be denied.

The religious debate about whether sacred objects are chosen by mortal or immortal forces can be fascinating. However, for the purposes of this article, let us accept that there exists a substantial human element in this phenomenon.

To believe that “Nothing is sacred” is to believe either that nothing deserves to be chosen as sacred or nothing has been. Perhaps the Grand Master’s belief identifies more with the former. In his view, religions and cultures have chosen certain sacred images, but these mere objects do not merit the respect or worship that they receive.

But is not the Great Midwest Trivia Contest its own culture in which “Everything is sacred?” The faithful masses, both on and off campus, observe the Contest with religious regularity and consistency, through a lengthy ceremony steeped in tradition and dogmatic philosophies.

Previously meaningless details are pursued in desperation. Like holy men skimming the pages of their holy texts, Trivia players comb the Webernets, searching for the one tidbit that will provide some sort of existential affirmation. They yearn for images of obscure robot porn with the dedication of an Arthurian quest. The most inconsequential details become stepping-stones to salvation; everything becomes sacred.

A man with a Scattergories tattoo. A specific date in the history of Middle Earth. A side dish served on the USS Hornet decades ago. The lesser known names for the @ symbol or the nicknames given to the make-up artists of the Kenosha Police Department.

Woebegone non-Trivia players wander through their lives disregarding these facts. They will never know the exhilaration of trivial discovery, nor will they ever understand that it is not just race or bass that matters, but that everything matters. Under the proper circumstances, any little thing can become essential to one’s existence.

Even as I watch my kitten pounce and paw at her sacred milk-cap ring (as she has done for the past hour), I find proof of the Grand Master’s unfortunate mistake. Those plastic circles are her life’s greatest source of joy. The thought that all my life I have mindlessly recycled milk-cap rings is heart wrenching.

For if my little Amelia finds fulfillment and excitement in a worthless piece of consumer waste, and if Trivia players find the same in insignificant minutiae, then surely the Grand Master misspoke. Perhaps, in his own excitement, clumsy kitten-words tripped and fell over each other, and “nothing” took the place of “everything.”