Who Would You Most Like to Have Dinner With?
Photo Caption: Dinner tonight at “19,” which is high atop the Harveys Resort and Casino at beautiful Lake Tahoe. I wolfed down a 20-ounce coffee-rubbed rib-eye, with garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus, a house salad, a full bottle of Pellegrino, two double expressos, and two bottles of Caymus (shared, of course). Epic dinners like these always bring about great conversation, especially when you are with great company like Steve Schorr (Race and Sportsbook Manager) and Glen Cademartori (Caesars Entertainment Marketing Director for Northern Nevada). Dinners like this are what living life is all about. Tonight’s dinner prompted the following thoughts and column:
I wish there were 36 hours in the day, instead of 24.
I wish there were eight days in the week, instead of seven.
I wish I had more time.
There’s not enough time to read all the books I want to read. There’s not enough time to listen to all the music I want to hear. There’s not enough time to travel to all the places I want to go. There’s not enough time to make all the friends I’d like to meet. There’s not enough time to covet those family relationships and friendships that I’m already blessed to have. There’s not enough time fulfill a vast cauldron of desires.
Indeed, each of us lives inside an hourglass. The sand beneath our feet is always shifting and slowly disappears, one grain at a time, one ticking second at a time. At some point — no one knows exactly when — the sand runs out. Our hourglass becomes empty. And then, we will be gone.
When you think about it, other than our good health, time is our most precious resource.
Why then do we waste so much of it?
Tonight at dinner, the conversation turned to living a good life.
A random question came up that made me to pause and think. And quite frankly, I got stumped. I usually have quick answers for just about everything. That’s what comes with being opinionated. But a question was asked that I still have trouble answering. Perhaps you’d like to pretend you’re dining with us over a few bottles of wine and you suddenly get asked the following:
If you could pick one person in the world to have a long one-on-one dinner conversation with, who would it be?
Let’s embellish this just a bit. You must make two choices. The first choice must be someone living. The second choice must be someone deceased.
I find this a very difficult question to answer.
I’ve played these parlor games in the past. One favorite is to compose your “dinner list” of ten people from history. You get to sit at the head of the table and be the gracious host. You also get to watch and witness your historical choices argue amongst themselves in what would be grand theater. Who wouldn’t want to dine amongst Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Sir Isaac Newton, Machiavelli, Socrates, William Shakespeare, Leonardo Da Vinci, Joan of Arc, Confucius, Emmanuel Kant, Nikola Tesla, Wolfgang Mozart, and all the rest of history’s most interesting people?
The trouble with multiple names and lists is, the fireworks come from witnessing these intellectual giants engaging in passionate engagement. As hosts, we would most likely be passive bystanders. For instance, I don’t know what I could possible contribute to a discussion with the above list, unless it were to uncork the next bottle of wine. Or clean the dishes. I probably couldn’t even do that right.
The question becomes most insightful when you must pick just one person — and sit across from that person for a long meal. You are part of the dialogue. You are forced to interact. In fact, you determine its very direction.
So, who would you choose? One living. One deceased.
The answers my compatriots gave were both interesting. I won’t reveal too much here, because our dialogue was informal but also personal. But the answers not only revealed something of ourselves, they very much cut to the essence of who we are, what we long to be, and what we desire to know.
One of my colleagues was quick to answer — his father. He then told us why. His answer came after very deep contemplation. His father is no longer alive, so of all the billions of people that have walked the earth, one of my dinner mates simply longed for that conversation more than any other that was most personal and undoubtedly had a powerful impact on his life.
Yes, it’s complicated.
There are a number of ways to answer the question as to the most desirous dinner companion(s). Were it for purely for entertainment and fun, Groucho Marx would be right up there. So would George Bernard Shaw. So would Mark Twain. Were the goal simply the pursuit of knowledge, any number of philosophers might fit the bill — then again would I be able to absorb or remember any of it? It could be a colossal waste of time and the ultimate in frustration, realizing one’s comparative insignificance. Then, there are the deeply personal choices we might make — a mother, a father, a child gone, or someone who meant something special to us.
Another interesting choice might be someone purely anonymous. How about a person who lived in Ancient Egypt? Imagine being able to sit across from someone in Pharaoh Ramses high court, while the pyramids were being built? How about the first person to walk the earth (likely a descendent from apes). How about Sir Francis Drake, one of the first men to sail around the world? How about someone from the future — let’s say a common man from the year 2450.
Alas, that would be my answer — although I cheated on the test. See — I’d pick someone, not from the past, but from the future. As much as I revere history and the path to where we are now the path to where we are going is life’s greatest mystery. The very notion that I could pick a man or woman from the year 2450 and not be stood up would be a most encouraging, and reassuring sign. A sign that we made it. A sign that we shall survive.
And even given all the remarkable people in history, the common man from the future — or perhaps a high intelligence from another galaxy (should such a being exist) — would be the ultimate triumph in knowledge.
That’s my final answer.
A common man or woman from the year 2450. Or, an intelligent being from beyond.
Which now brings us full circle and to the great irony of this question. Let’s get back to that hypothetical two-way conversation over dinner with a great historical figure. Even given my/our limitations, we would inherently be more interesting to them, than they are to us.
Because I suspect that if Sir Isaac Newton were given this same dinner proposition nearly five hundred years ago, he would very likely answer — a common man living in the year 2012.
And so it is that we are vastly more interesting as subjects than we might first realize, not just among the greatest minds in history, but especially so. And the sole reason for this is the passage of time — our most precious gift.