The key proviso is that it must be in the historical figure’s context and time. Said figure is not transported to our modern day. Thus, if I were an anthropologist, I definitely would want to observe Lucy in her natural state (as conversation would be almost impossible)! 😊
This was a much easier task for me to contemplate, probably in large measure due to the history lessons in school. The significant milestones in humankind’s arc offers many candidates. It’s likely that one’s passion, one’s interests will help narrow a short list from many many possibilities. Thus, if one were interested in military warfare and strategy, given how the world wars have changed the face of nations, one could zero in on the pivotal figures that had an out-sized impact on the outcome.
My list includes the following:
- Thomas Edison
- Leonardo Da Vinci
- George Washington
- Martin Luther King Jr
- Jesus Christ
How would I approach the dialog and engagement with these figures? What would be the central points and topics that I would seek to engage in?
Edison is well known as an inventor extraordinaire, holding 1093 US Patents! It would be amazing to understand how he gets his creative ideas, the ability to imagine and create new technologies. And when/how does he realize an idea is (or is not) a dead end, given the reported 1000 attempts at an electric incandescent light bulb? His attitude is best illustrated by his response to a reporter’s question on ‘How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?’ Edison replied, I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.’ At the end of this conversation, would we be nearer to answering this, ‘Is creative genius a genetic happenstance or can it be nurtured?’
Da Vinci is often regarded as the Renaissance Man. He’s adept at the arts, having painted the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, The Vitruvian Man and many others. At the same time, he had documented many scientific concepts, such as the Parachute and Helical Air Screw (http://www.da-vinci-inventions.com/). It’s amazing that Da Vinci was equally adept at both the creative/artistic and scientific domains. In researching his background, Da Vinci was un-schooled, learning from observation and apprenticeship. An interesting conversation is to pose the question that if he knew his time was limited, how would he spend it? Where would he channel his last energies?
Nostradamus appears on my list because I have a fascination with the future. Does Nostradamus’ quatrains really pertain to the future, or was it simply the extrapolations of others? If the former, were they divinely inspired? What other quatrains about the future have yet to un-fold?
Unlike my other complementary post on modern contemporary figures that excluded any political leaders, Washington makes my historical list for the simple fact that he’s a Statesman and exemplified the true qualities of consistently putting the interests and well being of the nation, the people above his own. As I contemplate the modern political leaders, some may have had noble intentions and objectives when they pursued and assumed office. But ultimately, power has a corroding effect. Holding public office is truly like wearing the One Ring in the Lord of the Rings. In the story, only Frodo was able to wear/use the One Ring without fully succumbing to it. How apt is this as an analogy of the risks of holding public office, and the rare individual that can successfully do so, for the benefit of the nation.
Washington, was the first President of the US, from 1789 to 1797, and is known as the ‘father of the country’. How did he demonstrate that he did not succumb to the corroding effects of power? After his final victory over the British in 1783, Washington was encouraged by others to seize power. In effect, he was offered the role of emperor of US, the counterpart of King George II of England! Washington resigned as commander-in-chief rather than seize power. As historian Gordon S Wood concludes, ‘The greatest act of his life, the one that gave him his greatest fame, was his resignation as commander in chief of the American forces.’
While I would love to converse with Washington over the current modern day interpretations of the various Amendments to the Constitution, it would be un-fair as he lacks the context of how societal values has evolved. Perhaps what might be most invaluable in our day together would be learning his approach to uniting a very modern and diverse nation. Guiding and reprimanding a partisan Congress. Striking the right balance between many opposing viewpoints and needs. I am sure he faced a similar set of issues, perhaps of a different scale and nature. His integrity and prioritizing the needs of the nation allowed him to lead and influence. Every nation today needs leaders like Washington.
As someone who grew up outside USA, I was not intimately aware of the civil rights struggles in a society that was bifurcated and racially segmented. But that same distance, lends an objectivity that allows me to unequivocally believe that MLK Jr enabled America to regain its’ own soul back. Much has been achieved for Black Americans, but much remains. Perhaps we are expecting to achieve too much within a generation, but when there’s still so much injustice, can we afford the luxury of time when lives are being destroyed, when generations will suffer? How will the conversation unfold? I would want MLK Jr to quickly understand what has been achieved, what remains un-fulfilled and the current state of racial relationships. To understand the current issues and insidious challenges faced by Black Americans (and other minorities). We will then discuss and identify actions and programs that will address the root causes. We have too many superficial attempts at addressing symptoms, while the disease stubbornly worms deeper inside. This would be a priceless day.
My final candidate is Jesus, and as a practicing Catholic, that’s the person that I would want to spend a day with. If you have a different faith and religion, I am sure that your candidate will be your religion’s founder. As a Catholic, I truly believe Jesus is the Son of God. I would really want to ‘know’ Jesus. Our conversation will be like a spiral. On the outer spiral rings, I would start with life after, what is the soul/spirit and what does it mean to be in heaven with God? The inner spiral rings will then focus on Jesus’ teachings and really juxtaposing these against my life to date. Where have I fallen short? Seeking forgiveness and peace. The spiral ends at the core, what is the purpose of my life?
Though, if Jesus responds the purpose of my life is for me to un-cover, that would NOT be un-expected! After all, God gave us the freedom to choose. And this conversation would be my truest ‘journey within’.
Peace be with you.