Oct 08

Party of Four

In Brief — What sounds like being seated in a restaurant is, in fact, your invitation of four people, past and present, to join you for an exchange of thoughts on topics of interest. [Written in May 2017.]


Revelations of Values —

Who do you invite and why? The invitees speak your language regardless of where they come from, when they lived and no matter the changes that might have taken place in the world. The people you invite can share thoughts and insights with you or with each other. Your selection tells about your values, so you need to think carefully about the four you invite. No doubt there are many people who might be considered, but you can choose only four. Which four will you choose?

Don’t be afraid; there are no right choices, only your choices. We are all different. Your choices reflect your interests; mine reflect my interests. Remember that fear is the mind-killer.

Try to limit your explanations to between twenty-five and fifty words. I may exceed that number, but this may give you an idea of what I meant by “Who do you invite and why.

My Choices and Reasons —

There are tens of thousands interesting people who have lived or are alive today. Some may even be your hero or heroine, yet you choose another. Some examples are: Socrates, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Lao Tzu, Adolf Hitler, Neil Armstrong, Winston Churchill, Nefertiti, Napoleon Bonaparte, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), Franklin D. Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, Charles Lindberg, Mao Tse-tung, Nelson Mandela, Molly Ivins, Joan Baez, Satchmo Armstrong, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Warren, Jonas Salk, etc., etc.

Here are my choices and the reasons I chose them. Although some were on my list, I chose another. Doesn’t mean the edited ones aren’t important to me, but there were four others who made the cut.

Leonardo da Vinci — A true polymath, he was an artist, inventor, scientist, architect, sculptor, anatomist, pacifist and an all-round fascinating genius. Known best for the Mona Lisa, his famous art works are legion. Though a pacifist, he designed military weapons. Centuries ahead of his time, he drew a helicopter and other flying machines. It has been speculated that he was homosexual.

Bertrand Russell — A Nobel Prize laureate, he won the prize for his writing, not the mathematics for which he is noted. He was a philosopher, writer, social critic and active anti-war pacifist. A liberal socialist, he wrote on subjects as varied as human sexuality, religion, linguistics, metaphysics, ethics and logic. He was atheistic and opposed to any form of totalitarianism.

Nelson Mandela — The first president of post-apartheid South Africa, he spent twenty-seven years in prison for his political activities opposing the apartheid regime. A lawyer, he devoted his life to freeing the black population from the iron grip of the murderous apartheid system. Land reform, black poverty, HIV/AIDS were his focus. The Nobel Peace Prize recognized his tireless pursuit of peace.

My fourth choice was a dead heat between Clarence Darrow and Mark Twain. Thus, four became five. I considered Eleanor Roosevelt, but she ultimately gave way to the men.

Clarence Darrow was a lawyer who defended the downtrodden and victims of narrow-mindedness (Scopes), government persecution (Bill Haywood) and the unpopular (Leopold/Loeb). He was a leading member of the ACLU, a supporter of women’s rights, an agnostic and a lifelong civil libertarian.

By contrast, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) was a prolific writer, humorist, lecturer and publisher. Opposed to the hypocrisy of religion, he nonetheless remained a Presbyterian despite his writings being scathing denunciations of organized religion. His humorous observations are as apt today as when he wrote them. Like Darrow, Twain/Clemens was an active civil libertarian. Even today his writings are being censored, not surprisingly by religionists and conservative politicians. He must be chuckling on that heavenly cloud.

These are my choices for some stimulating conversation leavened by humor. You may notice that all of my guests are from the past and that there are no females among them. I readily admit that there are many outstanding women such as Eleanor Roosevelt, but my guests are exclusively male. There may be room for some psychologizing there, but I can argue that there are practical reasons, too.

Let’s hear about your choices. Come on. Share. Give us a peek into your thinking process.


The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on October 2016.


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    • Dave Meyers on October 8, 2017 at 18:13

    As I read your opening paragraph, Don, I began to make choices for my dinner guests. Before I started to scroll down the page I made my first choice; Leonardo de Vince. When I did scroll down I was not surprised to see that he was your first choice as well. In light of that, I will not expound on his abilities or accomplishments, but will agree with most that they are beyond belief.

    My second choice is John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States. Depending on your political stance or world outlook, he may or may not be interesting to some. But I have always felt a sort of respect and grief for his life and death. There was something different about him as a national figure. He promoted a hope and a vision for this country that only Barrack Obama has rivaled. He was the first political figure to attract my attention as a young teenager. Whether all of his visions would have been realized is a matter of conjecture. But I would love to have the opportunity to tap his brain.

    My third choice would be Sharon Christa McAuliffe, the teacher-astronaut killed in the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion in 1986. I saw her as an adventitious and bold woman, who I was seriously jealous of. Had I ever been invited to take a flight on the Space Shuttle, I would have dropped everything and ran to the launch pad. I would do it today!
    The deaths of the Challenger crew were so tragic, especially after the cause was uncovered. But, her death struck me as especially tragic…. the eyes of millions of American school children were focused on that launch event, and the impact of the failure sent a shock-wave through classrooms across the country. As I watched it in real time, I could not get it to register as actually happening.
    I would love to converse with Christa; someone so full of the spirit of adventure.

    My forth choice is a selfish one. I want to be able to talk with my younger brother Tom. Ten years my junior, he died at age 25 almost 35 years ago now. He was strikingly handsome, built like a Greek statue, athletically skilled, and smart and funny as hell! He died two years after a cancer diagnosis, the symptoms of which went undiagnosed for a year by a young chiropractor who could not read his own X-rays…. even though the evidence of the cancer was plainly visible on the film.
    The future he may have had and the relationship that we as his siblings have missed, can only be imagined.
    Tom will always be a 25-year-old young man in our hearts and minds, even though he would be 60 years old next January had he lived.

    So…. there seems to be a pattern here; three out of four people taken before their time. I’m not sure what that means or way it worked out that way, but those are my choices. Yes, there are much greater and more renowned people from history that may be more profound as choices of dinner party guests, but these four choices are mine.

      • Don Bay on October 9, 2017 at 06:55

      Excellent choices. The fact that you and Jim chose a brother shows that the person still lives in your heart.

      As I’ve said, there are no wrong choices, only the choices a person makes. To that I also encourage other readers to let us know their choices and why they were chosen. Thanks to all who choose to share their choices with us. One of the beauties of this exercise is that I give thought to the persons chosen. Makes me wonder if four is enough…

  1. If I were handed a list and told that’s all I could get I would be delighted to get your list, Don. I admire them all and would be endlessly interested in the conversation. I would of course want much more than one dinner with them. And as you know I would want Madiba (Mandela) on any list. That said, living in South Africa has already told me most of what I could learn from him so I wouldn’t actually waste the opportunity on him.

    But I would want others for various reasons. First would be Jesus, who was a social activist, not for religious reasons but to learn who and what he really was, if anyone. So much of our society has been designed by who he supposedly was and what he supposedly said and I would like to hear the truth for myself. I doubt hugely that he would confirm what we have learned about him. You might want to read Lamb, The Gospel According to Biff by Christopher Moore.

    I would choose at least one woman, maybe one of the great feminists: Mary Wollstonecraft, Betty Friedan, Sojourner Truth, Simone de Beauvoir.

    I might choose Abraham Lincoln, again to hear him tell his story.

    Ghandi would be in the running, along with Siddhartha.

    Finally, as for Dave, I would include my long dead brother. Not because he would be a fascinating conversationalist, because he wouldn’t, but just to tell him that I wish we had been closer and spent more time together.

      • Don Bay on October 9, 2017 at 06:40

      Your choices are interesting, but we would like to read your reasoning behind the choices you name that are without the reason they were chosen.

      As to Jesus, although you hint that he may not have existed, your reasoning is solid for the selection. That said, there is zero evidence that the Jesus of the Christian holy book ever existed in the flesh. Paul is said to have made him the son of the deity in heaven; later believers brought Jesus to earth to make him more accessible for other believers. Marketing, you know.

      There are numerous possibilities not mentioned in my piece. Past and present individuals of both sexes would fill a New York phone book. Choices reveal as much about the chooser as about the one who was chosen and why. There are no wrong answers, only the answers of readers. It’s a great exercise whether a person chooses to comment or not.

    • Susan on October 9, 2017 at 19:30

    I think I would have to choose my grandfather Max Blanck for one . I’d want to learn all that I could about his thoughts surrounding that Triangle fire and his business practices. I’d want my dad there as well . He passed when I was only 18 years old and I’d like to know where he has been since,
    I’d like to meet my grandmothers mother on my mom’s side of the family. Her name was Carrie .
    I’d want to know about her parents and grandparents, where they were born and what their lives were like. For the 4th choice, I’d like to meet a possible grandchild to be when they are middle aged. As I won’t be around then, I’d like to know how their life had gone and what their relationship with my daughter was like.
    I’m much more interested in my own roots than in politicians or inventors who I have no familial connections with.
    Am I breaking any rules here?
    BTW… Someone I know is now a proud grandfather and we are so very happy for that new life .
    Can hardly wait to share the ❤️

      • Don Bay on October 9, 2017 at 21:15

      I never considered the future, but there are no rules here so future family members are acceptable. Interesting choices. For one, I applaud your choices. We’ve had brothers so why not other relatives. No doubt they will tell you about your family history.

      You are right about that proud grandfather. “Exhilarated” is an even better word. The hard part falls to the parents. The parents will point the way, so it’s up to the boy to choose the most moral path pointed out. Fingers crossed the world will cooperate.

        • Susan on October 10, 2017 at 06:52


          • Don Bay on October 11, 2017 at 06:19

          You’re a good example for there being only the choices of the readers. You chose family members to elaborate on family history. You done good, Susan.

    • Kathy on October 10, 2017 at 01:52

    I’d choose Jane Austen, because it seems she must’ve been a bright, funny person.
    Ursula K. LeGuinn, who seems wise and insightful and has experienced a rich and fascinating life.
    King Richard III, who got a bad rap due to politics. I’d love to find out what his life and times were really like.
    And even though she’s not a human, she’s still a person to me– my little girl Amber. I miss her so much, and feel like I lost a part of my life when she died.

      • Don Bay on October 10, 2017 at 06:25

      Those choices are rather spare as if you ran out of time, but they capture the essence of your reasoning.

      I understand your choosing Amber, but I didn’t contemplate pets. Still, Amber has a place in your heart that rivals human relatives. That shows the power of dear pets who are members of our families.

        • Kathy on October 11, 2017 at 00:33

        Four guests, no?

          • Don Bay on October 11, 2017 at 06:28

          Yep, I said four, but I couldn’t make up my mind between two men who fascinate me, so I chose five. Strictly speaking, I cheated. If I’d followed the rules I established, I’d have had to eliminate one of them. Even now, I’m torn as to which man I’d eliminate. Say I’m indecisive.

          Although you chose a much-loved pet, your choices are important to you. That’s what counts.

    • Linda on October 16, 2017 at 23:09

    My response is limited to one person because these days I am so focused on my mother. Dinner with Kiyoko.

    Since I have been living with my mother, caring for her for nine years and seeing her decline which includes, for the most part, becoming non-verbal, I do think about conversations I might have had with her if I had known she would one day lose her ability to have a conversation. So while she is still here with us, I do yearn for another conversation with her about her life and wish she could tell me about how she feels now — how she feels about being six months shy of being a century old. I want her to tell me what she is thinking when she stares at me, seemingly with concern. I want to hear about how she is experiencing aging — forgetting how to do daily things we take for granted. I want to know what gives her pleasure now.

    I want to know what would she want me to know about her?

    This has led me to think about what I would want my boys, both grown adults with families of their own, to know about me.

      • Don Bay on October 17, 2017 at 07:17

      Of course, you would want your mother to have the ability to explain what she thinks and feels. Her long life has given her experiences beyond the ordinary, particularly since she is Asian and experienced what it was like to be Japanese during WWII.

      Your closing paragraph makes me suggest that you write down what you have done, what you value and what you think. Be sure you tell them about what you are doing with your life. You have lots of experiences that are valuable information about you. Honesty is paramount, easy for someone with your integrity. Do it NOW!

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