Wow, what an opportunity that would be. Since we are allowing me such a fiction, I chose to dine with them in their own settings so as to learn from their surroundings as well as from them directly.
Unfortunately I don’t actually know all of the names of some of those people, so I have made up a few – but you will understand what I mean as I go through my list.
My first choice chronologically, not by order of importance, would be to sit Jane Goodall or Dian Fossey style in a tree or on the ground with our first homo ancestors as they have begun the split from the other apes. You could argue that the question specifies people, and I would argue that these are people in a sense – though very primitive in their evolution.
I picture the setting of trees within a mile or so of the edge of a savannah almost six million years ago. I sit eating a piece of fruit with my “host” Eek Eek not conversing with my vocal cords but rather from my non-threatening, docile behavior and mannerisms. I would hope that during the course of my presence I could be perceived by my “host’ as different but not someone to be feared. I would be the observer, of course and try to gain as much knowledge as possible about their diet, behavior, gestures, tool usage – as with some apes today, basically everything could about their environment, and themselves.
The second person, with whom I would wish to dine, would be “Gronk”, the artist and cave painter at Lascaux, in southwestern France. Surely any person capable of such grandeur and emotion must be someone I would want to know. Gronk has great ability to communicate although I will not understand his or her language, but I suspect with use of hands and drawings we could communicate quite well. His or her world would be a bit daring considering what now extinct species still survive at that time, but I would love to see them paint and show me their world. I’d ask for my auroch medium well.
Third would be the man we know as Jesus, which is not of course his real name. If you’d asked to see Jesus back then people would have looked at you in total bewilderment. We anglicize everything and often modify it in the process. I suspect I would find a very different man than the person who is portrayed in the Bible or in church. I believe he would behave as would anyone who has a cause in which they believe – somewhat daring and a bit careless with his own safety. Although I don’t know Aramaic, hopefully for the evening he will speak English. I wouldn’t talk much. This would be a night I would mainly listen to philosophy and perceived wisdom.
Fourth would be a toss-up between the person, for this writing I’ll name him Ypologisti, who built the Antikythera Mechanism, the first analog machine to “compute” and perfect differential gearing. It has been dated to around 100 – 150 BCE (BC for most of us) It was found in a wreck of a boat off of the Greek island of Antikythera around 1900 by a sponge diver. It has 30 faultlessly meshing bronze gears of different sizes and a complex clockwork mechanism that predicts astronomical positions and eclipses, among other things. It is the world’s first known computer and similar clock type mechanisms were not perfected in Europe until after 1275. The evolution of a piece of machinery runs vertically – in other words from earlier less advanced models up to the one being shown as well as horizontally – the development of the machine tools necessary to make the device – to machine the gears, as well as the
evolution of knowledge needed to invent it.
I could have also picked Isaac Newton, a man I find quite amazing in his masterful ability to develop Newtonian Physics. Although our universe actually works in ways not known to Newton, his equations and methodology still work well enough to allow us to put men on the moon.
Finally, my fifth selection would be Albert Einstein. I have always had a fascination with Einstein, since I read a book about relativity when I was 13. Einstein, I suspect would not have been an eloquent easy to understand speaker, but I am sure he was a gracious host. His physics are what replaced Newton’s.
There are of course hundreds of notable people with whom I would love to have dinner; statesmen and philosophers (both ancient and contemporary) as well as composers, writers – people of all talent and ability.