Ratatouille, Critics and Risking Something

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RatCritic1I found this statement at the end of the animated film Ratatouille profound. These are the words of the food critic Anton Ego in his review of the restaurant in the movie.

“In many ways the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgement. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read.

But, the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things... the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are
times when a critic truly risks something… and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.

Last night I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from an singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking, is a gross understatement– they have rocked me to my core.

In the past I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: “Anyone Can Cook”. But I realize only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.

It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the
genius now cooking at Gusteau’s, who is, in this critic’s opinion, nothing less than the finest Chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau’s soon, hungry for more.”

I think this quote nails a few things about playing the part of the critic. Critics are a dime a dozen online. Doers are fewer and further between. People will always find it easier to tear down than to build up…to deconstruct rather than reconstruct. It is harder to pick up a brick, put down the mortar and set it in place than to take a hammer or a bulldozer and knock a building down. Bricks left in a field do not organize themselves into a building and buildings left in a field will ultimately turn into a pile of bricks. Entropy is the normal direction of things…things tend to fall apart. Building takes vision, energy and risk. Criticism puts the risk on someone else. To deconstruct without being willing to do the heavy lifting of reconstructing is reckless laziness. It is always far easier to criticize people or even churches or ministries or Christianity as a whole than it is to do something meaningful that shapes a better tomorrow.

Let us all be working to make a difference. Let us use words that build up rather than tear down. Let us speak the truth in love. Let us be patient with each other and realize that just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean they are dishonest or your enemy. May God have mercy on us all!

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