I’m a little feverish tonight, which is a great opportunity to do some writing like that. And it is an interesting topic, isn’t it? I knew that before I started thinking about it, but I discovered that in fact, it’s not just fun, but in a way, troubling too. My kind of topic.
Obviously, there are two ways to look at this question, and because of that, there are two categories of answers. The first one is the personal approach. Having someone close to you who passed away or is otherwise unavailable, someone you felt a close connection to or imagine you would have one. The emotional choice.
And then there is the seemingly creative approach. Elvis Presley, Albert Einstein, Jesus Christ, you know, the greatest hits. Someone famous, exciting, maybe a bit mysterious, preferably a pop culture icon. Having the entire history of humanity to choose from doesn’t seem to inspire enough, though, and the choices don’t seem to vary that much in the end. While it’s idiotic not to admit that a dinner with Elvis would be freaking awesome, and given the opportunity I would be an idiot not to go for it, but I imagine there’s only so much I could ask him about. A one-time event and that’s it. Jesus seems like a more intriguing choice, with potentially life, if not world-changing consequences, but it’s impossible to do it without certain expectations, and it’s highly unlikely to learn something we don’t already know. What I mean, is that if you believe in God, you feel like a bigger or smaller part of His plan, there’s nothing new you would learn from Jesus, would you? And if you don’t, and you would happen to be right, you’ll take nothing from the dinner, and if you’re wrong, you have to assume that meeting Jesus wasn’t the only way God would have you converted. You see what I mean. If you’re meeting someone having some expectations of the meeting, your experience won’t be… “full”.
Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to talk about. I was thinking, with whom would I want to have a dinner, given a chance?
To be honest, I knew immediately what kind of people I would love to meet. If you happen to be that one follower who reads my posts (you from Canada – thanks, man), you might already have an idea.
For the rest of you – look, I have this unhealthy fascination with all the people in the history of our kind who have achieved things that might not, or rather usually aren’t objectively important, spectacular or celebrated, but who have otherwise contributed in ways that either don’t mean anything to the grand majority, or their contribution remained undiscovered, forgotten or unappreciated. The Unknown Man I call them.
Might seem counterintuitive, dreaming about having dinner with someone whom I just called objectively not interesting enough, but that’s just because you think about it the wrong way. Even someone who isn’t discussed in history classes – or family parties, if you’re leaning towards the “emotional choice” – might have some incredible things to talk about. And there are those, who I’m sure many of you would die to talk to, or would at least admit it might be quite interesting after all.
For instance – people who build the Stonehenge. It was constructed throughout centuries, so it’s kind of hard to pick one specific guy, especially that we aren’t exactly sure who build it, as in, which specific group of people. The purpose of it is also merely presumed. Hell, I’m not going to explain Stonehenge to you people. It’s just an example. Wouldn’t it just be… super cool to know who build it, why, how long he planned it and how he sold the idea to his buddies? There’s no way we can learn that now. The discoveries we might be able to make could potentially answer some questions, but not nearly enough to satisfy the good ol’ human curiosity.
Not “fantastic” enough? What about the person who one day gathered all the folks of his tribe, sat them down on the rocks out in the field and said “look, what I’ll say might sound crazy at first, but just hear me out, I’ll just throw it out there: what if, and I know it’s a big if, what if we start planting seeds and settle down instead of just following the food?”.
Obviously, I know it didn’t happen like that, but you get the idea, I hope. There had to be someone, or a group of people, who made choices that at the time had to seem so abstract, so unreal, that it took more courage, charisma, and confidence to sell them and see their plans fulfilled than I can imagine. Like the person who convinced Egyptians that sun “moves around because a god – Re – carries it on his canoe across the sky like a madman”. Plus, I’d love to know if that guy was an idiot or a charlatan as a bonus.
Again, I know these things didn’t happen overnight, but you see my point. There were times, when everything that the humans were doing, as a species, they were doing it for the first time. Choices made back then determined the shape of our civilization. And even though those who made the choices couldn’t have foreseen the outcome and the consequences, their motivation, the circumstances and the potential alternatives are nothing short of fascinating to me. I’d love to know more about this, especially since most of it actually isn’t and never will be in history books, and speculation with that many holes in our data is useless. Not pointless, since it’s fun but objectively useless.
So to sum up, I would use this opportunity of having dinner with anyone I desire to reveal a mystery. How selfless of me, I know… But, what matters, is that in my case it’s not the person that I’m actually choosing, but the mystery. So which mystery, one that couldn’t be solved by the means of science would I want to be solved the most?
And now, that I start thinking about mysteries, I realize the task is even more difficult than I thought. The Unknown Man, however fascinating, are not the only ones that I have a special interest with, as there are people, who are not necessarily unknown to us, but are nevertheless surrounded by mystery.
Take the people from the Diatlov Expedition, the victims of the Diatlov Pass Incident. If you haven’t already, I recommend you read about it. The circumstances of the death of the members are terrifying and mysterious enough to give you chills, and best we can do is speculate on what has happened. Wouldn’t a first-hand explanation be amazing?
Or Jerome of Sandy Cove, a man found on a beach in Nova Scotia whose legs were cut off, who didn’t speak English or any language in which people tried to communicate with him, and who died taking his secret to the grave?
Or D.B. Cooper? Babushka Lady? Zodiac Killer? Roanoke colonists? Mysteries upon mysteries, all ranging from highly unlikely to impossible to solve.
What would I do given the chance to solve just one?
I thought very long about this, actually. I thought about the builders of Göbekli Tepe, the oldest temple in the world that challenges our knowledge of the ancient civilizations. I also thought about the half-legendary, first ruler of my country, Poland, Piast. But I eventually realized, that one meeting with just one person wouldn’t satisfy me. I want all those mysteries I talk about solved, but as a principle, the desire for the state of knowing the entirety of our history. Solving just one mystery won’t even begin to satisfy that desire, and I could spend a lifetime picking the one I want to solve, and potentially being disappointed with the revelation, wondering about whether I should have chosen another mystery.
So then I thought, that it’s a stupid game. Because no matter how I think about this, there isn’t a good answer. Of course, I immediately remembered: there aren’t bad answers here, that’s the point.
That’s when I thought of the man who unknowingly had me originally fascinated with the Unknown Man: my great-great-grandfather. I never met him, he died long before I was born. In fact, he didn’t even know my father. But his deeds and achievements – his life, in fact – was preserved in stories, events witnessed by my grandfather who has been sharing these stories with me. Stories that aren’t thrilling enough on their own to base a book on them, but are just personal enough to jump-start that feeling of wonder and excitement coming from learning about your past, even if it’s not directly your past, but your family’s.
I heard the story of him carving the new benches for the church after he accidentally broke one of the old ones and threw a spontaneous, loud and a rather unpleasant monologue about the quality of the church’s equipment. I heard it a dozen times. But I would absolutely love to hear it from him. To not only know his actions but understanding his thoughts, emotions too…
So. Not an Unknown Man, but a “founding member” of the association. Not a mysterious celebrity, but an incredible man who should know, who carries out his legacy. Yes, that’s whom I want to meet.
If you could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be?