The best or the master?

He is a good guitarist.

He is a better guitarist than the other band’s.

He is the best guitarist in town.

Being the best is always subject to comparison. But the moment we move away from mathematical measurement, comparison is always flawed. Therefore, best is a compromise, an approximation. Even an illusion. He is the best guitarist on what basis? There is never an objective answer.

She is a novice programmer.

She is an intermediate programmer.

She is a master programmer.

We don’t say somebody is a master compared to somebody else. Mastery stands on its own and in its own right. The same town has room for several master programmers, because each is a master in their own right.

Would you rather be the best or the master?

Apples and oranges

We don’t compare apples with oranges.

But we compare people all the time. We compare siblings, cousins, classmates, peers, and colleagues, nudging them to be better and scaring them about falling behind.

Isn’t it absurd that we respect the uniqueness of fruit, but treat different people all the same?