An article about a world record set by Ashrita Furman for balancing the longest pole on your chin.
Aspendos – what magic and charm are to be found in that name! Fifty kilometres east of Antalya, on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, lies this masterpiece of the ancient world. In AD 162, out of the granite bedrock, the Roman architect Zeno crafted an amphitheatre which could seat 12,000 spectators – a perfect acoustic and visual shell. From tiers of ascending marble seats, people could watch dramas, pageants and heroic athletic feats.
On December 13th, that glorious spirit was rekindled by a visitor from New York whose name is synonymous with deeds of Herculean proportions. Since 1979, Ashrita Furman has established 126 Guinness World Records in categories such as pogostick jumping, somersaulting, ball balancing, hopping, skipping, juggling and many more.
Ever in search of striking backdrops for his records, Ashrita chose Aspendos as the venue for his most recent record attempt: to balance the tallest object on his chin. The previous record was a 13 metre pole. Ashrita had brought with him to Turkey a telescopic fibreglass pole that could be opened out in sections to the height he desired.
He decided to do a warm up attempt with 15 metres (50 feet). To the tapered tip of the pole, he attached the distinctive red Turkish flag with its golden crescent moon and star. His assistants brought the pole to a vertical position and lifted the base to his chin. There it swayed and bent in the wind like a slender bamboo tree. At the very top, the Turkish flag was flapping wildly, dragging the pole even further from the centre. For a few seconds, Ashrita was able to balance the pole on his chin, but then he abandoned the attempt.
It seemed that a wind tunnel was being created on the stage of the amphitheatre by the entranceways on either side. Ashrita decided to remove the flag and try again. This time, in spite of the wind, he managed to achieve a point of perfect balance on his chin and the pole stayed aloft for 15.19 seconds.
According to the conditions pre-set by Guinness for the records, the pole had to remain upright and without any support for a minimum of 10 seconds. Ashrita had just set a new world records, but he still longed to fulfil his original vision of raising the Turkish flag inside this exquisitely preserved monument.
He expanded the pole to a height of 54 feet and reattached the Turkish flag to its apex. Among those who were deeply moved by this gesture was the Mayor of the surrounding district of Belkis who was present at this most unusual event with some of his staff members.
Once more the pole was raised to a vertical position and placed on Ashrita’s unprotected chin. One can only imagine the tremendous pressure it exerted and also the strain on his neck muscles. Ashrita gave the signal for his assistants to release their grip on the pole and there it remained, in perfect symmetry and balance, for a long 13.78 seconds to establish a new world record (pending certification by Guinness) Ashrita immediately dedicated the record to his spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy, whose philosophy of self – transcendence has inspired him to undertake so many outstanding feats. He also offered the record as a symbolic salute to the nation of Turkey, which stands at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. For millennia, Turkey has enriched the life of humanity with its culture and history.
Ashrita’s record struck an immediate chord with the Turkish people and photographs of it appeared in newspapers across the region. Sri Chinmoy celebrated Ashrita’s success at a special event in Antalya and made the following most significant comment:
“Again and again Ashrita is proving to the world that impossibility has no reality in it. Impossibility is empty of reality. ”
It is, indeed, a philosophy that the ancients would have been proud to uphold!
Vidagdha Bennett is a student of Sri Chinmoy . Sri Chinmoy teaches meditation and a philosophy of self transcendence. Vidagdha has written several articles on Ashrita, Sri Chinmoy and self transcendence.