Guest Post – Author Bob Milton
I’ve heard this hypothetical question asked a number of different ways, but it comes down to this. What famous person would you like to have a conversation with? This is a fun query, because I think about all the great or historical people I know of, consider their wisdom and contributions, and attempt to figure out which character could give me the most novel and inspiring ideas. Popular answers may be Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, or the Dalai Lama because of their renown for perspicacity. Sometimes I fancy picking the brains of comedic geniuses like Eric Idle or Chris Elliott. Ultimately, when I am asked, I always try to give an answer that will seem clever, and perhaps a bit erudite. When asked what author I would like to engage, I might answer “Moses, because he purportedly wrote the beginning of the Bible”. If asked about an actor I would like to meet, I may answer “John Wilkes Boothe”, who of course was not known for his acting. My response depends on the time I have to give an answer. That last one took me 8 hours, and admittedly isn’t that clever after all.
In truth, though, I actually wouldn’t want to have a conversation with any famous person. There are several possible reasons for this, and I don’t know which of them are true. It may be that I am shy, or would feel small trying to engage with someone so accomplished. Perhaps I feel intimidated by someone so much smarter than myself, or worry I couldn’t carry on an intelligent conversation with them. I am as prone to being star-struck as the next guy, so maybe I don’t want to come off as un-cool. I do have pride (or perhaps, more appropriately, arrogance), and don’t want to appear deferential to anybody. I know that I am also fairly tongue-tied whenever I talk to someone important, just as I would be with a pretty woman I’m trying to impress. I’d just as well keep that awkwardness to myself, in all fairness.
The reason I will submit that I prefer not to talk to a renowned person is that they are, after all, only people. Many of them do have very original ideas, and many of them can offer a lot of advice and insight. However, I’ve found that I am surrounded by a lot of very insightful and experienced people in my local community. Most of them can’t successfully market their sagacity, but express it well enough in their stories. I have conversations with these people daily, and these engagements are natural, comfortable, and seem to happen when I need them most. There is no pretense with my companions, but I am often humbled to hear them. I find a richness in speaking with those that will never be famous, or make any large scale changes to the world. They instead improve the lives of those around them, including those that are most important to me. They are almost always accessible to me, and hopefully in many cases I have something to offer them as well.
So, I may one day have that imagined conversation with Maynard James Keenan or Simon Pegg, and in all likelihood I won’t be disappointed. Until then, I will continue to enjoy coming up with good answers to the question. Likewise, I hope to enjoy the dialogues with people around me, and look forward to exchanges with them with as much eagerness as I would on meeting a celebrity.