I remember a time in the late 80’s when I came across a book in my college book store. You probably had this book or knew of someone who did.
It was, by far, the best book I ever purchased at the Boilermaker Bookstore. This collection of questions led to many late night — and of course, “life-changing” — discussions on the floor of my dorm room with friends and people I regarded as “deep thinkers.” Fueled by Diet Cokes, pulled from the mini-fridge, and Marlboro Lights, pulled from the carton on the top shelf, we were figuring it all out, a page at a time.
In fact, it was after a particularly smoky six-hour analysis of “life and how to live it,” spurned by some of the questions contained in this pocket-sized book, that I boldly announced, “That’s it. I’m changing my major to philosophy.”
When I called to inform my parents of this fact, I think I might have heard, initially, a groan, and then something like, “Sounds about right.”
One of the questions in this chocked-full-of-provocative-ideas book was something like: If you could spend the evening with anyone (dead or alive), who would it be and why?
Now I have no idea who I named in 1989, but I know who I’d name today: T.S. Eliot.
I have no schooling in the art or appreciation of poetry. I wouldn’t know how to approach writing it. I can’t name the best and brightest.
But I have loved Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” for decades. (I have a copy of it in my car and read it when I’ve forgotten to bring along a book or am stuck in traffic.)
I have come across quote after quote of his which I love. Here’s one I read yesterday in “Poets and Writers:”
If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?
So, I’d have T.S. come to my house. I’d serve him dinner, and we’d talk. Well, he’d talk, and I’d listen. I’d ask, and he’d answer.
And then, he’d go.
I’d be left with the memory of the words and the texture of his voice. My life would go forward with the appreciation for the brief intersection with a great poet.
All of this gratitude for the hypothetical makes me think that today might be well spent regarding those who are with me every day with the same degree of awe. And tonight, I’ll have dinner with family.