There's a little game I play whenever the world seems hopelessly overrun by bullies and blockheads, incompetents and malcontents. I create an imaginary dinner party.
First, I re-read the Henry Miller quote that's on my fridge. "The world is so rich, simply throbbing with splendid treasures, beautiful souls, and interesting people." And then I get to work on the guest list.
Because it's make believe, I can invite anyone I'm curious about. But to make it challenging, I impose some real-world rules. There has to be a mix of men and women. They all have to be living (no Cleopatra) and real (no avatars). They can't be so famous that they require security (sorry, George Clooney). And they have to be willing to share the spotlight. Years ago, I was invited to a dinner with Peter Ustinov as the special guest. I'm outgoing and love to talk, but Sir Peter made it abundantly clear that he was the center of attention, not me (no divas).
One final rule. They have to be New Radicals -- that is, their work makes the world a better place (for more, please see archived articles).
Here's my latest guest list (play along by sharing yours in the comments section!).
Diana is a rare bird: a botanist and medical biochemist. I choose her because of her book, "The Global Forest", knowing that she'll weave imaginative and poetic tales to help us see trees in a new way -- because all of life depends on the forest. (I'll write more about Diana later this summer.)
Every dinner party needs music, and who better than this west African musician. Bassekou plays a three-stringed instrument, the Ngoni, that is the precursor to the banjo. He's going to be in Toronto for Luminato (a 10-day celebration of arts and creativity), so I might just pull it off!
What's a modern gathering without a social entrepreneur? Caroline's organization, Kanchi, encourages the inclusion of people with disabilities as employees, customers, and full members of the community. Caroline is visually impaired, which intensifies my desire to hear her story.
OK, now someone to make us laugh. I know that Al's not in the funny business anymore (well, not literally), but I'll bet he has a lot of pent-up mirth he's dying to share. And I'd like to hear his take on Washington in the era of that ultimate New Radical, President Obama.
What's a dinner party without great clothes? I've loved Jil's work for decades and am thrilled that she's joined forces with the Japanese company Uniqlo (which sells reasonably-priced fashion) so that mere mortals like me can afford to buy them. Her "less is more" approach has never seemed more relevant and, if we're very, very lucky, she'll bring loot bags.
Silenced by the Vatican in 1989 for his radical (New Radical?) views, Fox is now an Episcopal priest and prolific author. We need someone to say grace, for sure, but also to connect us to the divine -- the mystery, that lies beyond our iPhone-obsessed world. I'm going to get him talking about his new thing -- the hidden spirituality of men.
Doris is who I want to be when I grow up -- at 99 (she'll be 100 on July 7th), she continues to travel and paint. She'll talk to us about the creative process, no doubt, and also what it's like to see the world from this rare and precious perch.
Johann is likely to coax us into an after-dinner stretch: a rousing round of the world's beautiful game (in honour of the World Cup). I'll get him talking about Right to Play, which uses play and sport to help spur development, health, and peace. Olympic and professional athletes are now involved in this international effort.
I like to leave one place empty for an unexpected guest. In folklore, Elijah was known for bringing summer storms. And big weather would make this dinner party complete.
Now it's your turn. Who would you invite to your dream dinner party? Who inspires you and reminds you that, yes, the world is a beautiful place, full of wonder and good works? Please share your thoughts by commenting below. As always, I invite you to send me a note: Julia (that familiar symbol) wearethenewradicals (punctuation) (suffix).
Julia Moulden is an author, speaker, and columnist. Her new book will be published in 2011.