A question re: 'You can invite any historical figure to dinner...'

Somewhat inspired by a thread in GD.

We’re all familiar with the question of which person or persons from history you would invite to dinner if given the opportunity. Usually the emphasis is getting the opportunity to ask the guest questions and find out what he or she thinks about this topic or that. Personally, though, I don’t relish the thought of that kind of meeting. Sure, I can think of a handful of questions I’d like to ask of a handful of people, but I’d mostly feel awkward (and possibly rude) pumping a stranger for information.

On the other hand, what is very appealing to me is the idea of *answering *the questions of an historical figure. Having circa-1783 Thomas Jefferson come over, then sitting him down and saying “Ok, Mr. Jefferson, get comfortable, because here are the broad strokes of American history over the past 200+ years” just sounds like enormous fun. My only fear is that he’d say “shut up and show me how to use this ‘Wikipedia’ you keep checking.”
Does anyone else feel the same way?

I most certainly do. :slight_smile: Whenever that kind of question is asked, all I can think is “Ok, who’d be the most fun company?” because it’s not as if I’m going to pump them about their lives, so they’ve gotta be enjoyable company even without their famous or infamous attributes.

That being said…I still think Albert Einstein would be a lot of fun at dinner. :slight_smile:

This reminds me of a Pearls Before Swine comic strip from several months ago.

I suspect Mr. Jefferson would NOT be pleased with what he heard about his country today. Just my opinion, I could be wrong. I want to talk to Julius Caesar. Very much.

I feel the same way, and prior to 2007 I thought I was the only one. Then came a fascinating and enlightening thread in which many, many dopers discussed their fantasies of escorting a historical figure around modern times. It sounds like your choice would be Jefferson, which fits into the extremely popular founding founders theme. My personal choice is Madison, but by far the leader in that thread was Benjamin Franklin.

I guess I missed that thread, because I do fantasize about that sort of thing sometimes.

And Jefferson was just the first guy to come to mind. I’m thinking there’s a chance he’d be really critical or judgmental; Franklin sounds like a lot of fun. Then Jefferson. Lincoln would be great, as well as a lot of other Civil War characters.

I’d like to invite Theodore Roosevelt. I have a feeling I wouldn’t have to say much and it would be a bedazzling evening.

Gawd that’s a toughie. DaVinci is at the top of my list, and there’s so much I’d want to ask of him and pick his brain for. But at the same time, I feel once he got past the future-shock, he’d understand and have a zillion questions that I would delight in filing him in on. Manned flight, cars, anatomy, physics, nature and astronomy, modern digital painting, photography and CGI, chemistry, engineering and robotics, music, computers, television, animation, the internet, fast food… my mind reels! I think his would asplode, especially if we could have dinner in Paris, and take a quick trip to the Louvre; I’d love to show him a certain painting.

I’d also give him an Italian translated book by Dan Brown. Oh how we’d laugh… or would we?!

I guess I’d go with answering his questions, if I could at least ask just a few of my own. :wink:

Good call - scientists would probably be the most fun especially polymaths like Leonardo.

Eratosthenes (nicknamed Beta because he was the second best at virtually every avenue of science) would be on my shortlist. Third Centuy BC though would give us a hell of a lot to catch up upon…

Oh - I responded with being asked the questions as I suspect the famous minds would ask much better questions that I could so why waste there time?

I would love to have Shakespeare’s thoughts on modern times. I’d stick him in front of youtube and watch his espressions when he realizes his plays are still being performed.

I wouldn’t want my dinner party to consist of a Q&A session in either direction. So I chose “something else,” that being a good conversation, a back-and-forth exchange of ideas, opinions, memories, jokes, etc. Not a job interview.

I agree that asking questions is largely pointless. I think appeal to the wisdom of previous generations only seems to make sense because we venerate them so much. It may be that someone like Newton solves a whole bunch of problems, but how do we know someone else might not have solved them soon thereafter had he not or that he may have done well then but would have failed to contribute in an earlier or later period? Surely, some people will probably translate well to other times, but that still probably requires a lot of context that makes asking the question almost impossible to get right. You might be able to get perspective on what they were thinking or what they meant when they did or said something, but I think that is really just an exercise in curiousity than actually a matter of relevance.

I think answering questions is probably fruitless too. Sure, we could terrify the forefathers with the butchering of many of their constitutional ideals, but what would be the point unless it would actually make a difference in how they acted? And if it did, what if butchering some of those ideals is actually a positive thing and their reaction is to make that more difficult or impossible? So, all I see there is the personal satisfaction is satisfying someone else’s curiousity.

No, instead, I’d just like to hang out. I’ve met a lot of musicians that I admire a lot. In a few cases, I was a complete fanboy, but in most cases, we just chatted about whatever. I may have one or two questions about some of their stuff and they might ask about my reactions and thoughts, but most of the time would be them telling a silly story from earlier in the tour or rambling about our personal lives or whatever. Hell, I probably gained a lot more perspective on their music from actually talking about that sort of stuff than if I asked them pointed questions.

And so, with perhaps a few exceptions–particularly with regard to religious figures like Jesus where the “what did you mean by…?” question is still likely very meaningful and relevant–I’d just want to hang out and I’d try to pick out people that I thought would be interesting company rather than someone who did something really important but is otherwise a detestable person or someone who was really brilliant but also really boring. So, sure, I could hang out with someone like Jefferson, and I imagine I’d enjoy time spent with him and gain a larger total perspective of his life with that kind of dinner party than just a long Q&A deal.

I want an actual conversation and hang out time with the people invited to dinner. Of course if I invited Careme, Apicius, Vatel, Jacques Pepin and Tony Bourdain over for the day I would expect some kitchen fun and a hell of a dinner afterwards.

Call me crazy, but I’d like to share a meal with Josef Stalin.
Just so I could understand evil incarnate.
Though many people insist that “Uncle Joe” could be quite charming…as long as yor name wasn’t on his list (of people to be “liquidated”)!:eek:

I’ll bet you could think of worthwhile questions to ask even fairly recent historical personages whose answers aren’t in the history books. And the further back you go, the more gaps in our knowledge there are.

Or even confirming some things we believe are true, but not certain about - I’d love to get the definitive word from the apostle Paul on which letters he actually wrote/dictated, of those attributed to him in the NT, and then spread the text of I and II Corinthians in front of him, ask him just how badly the NT mashed different letters of his together, to sort it all out properly for us, and give us some background of what he knew about what was going on in the church in Corinth, and what he was responding to.

Or where and when he first heard about this Jesus fellow, why he got into persecuting his followers, and what really happened on the Damascus road.

And what happened after he got to Rome - was his case eventually brought before Caesar, and if so, what happened when it did? Was he executed or punished for his evangelism, or did he live unmolested until dying from natural causes?

I chose “something else”. I’d like to take the Wright brothers to a modern airport and buy them a ticket on a 747. I’d like for them to see how their little machine grew up.

Additionally, I think a “typical day in the modern world” with Ben Franklin would be fun. Cars, cellphones, television, internet, etc. An old inventor would be fascinated with what is considered normal now.

Am I the only one who would love to find out what the fuck Hitler was thinking?

I need to talk to Stalin.