04/16/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Choking at the Intellectual Feast

As I wrote previously, this weekend I'm attending the fascinating Renaissance Weekend in Santa Monica, an event which brings to mind that infamous Robert Bork quote which helped destroy his chances of being on the Supreme Court: an intellectual feast.

Blogging about anything that is said or done is strictly prohibited, of course, but I think I can safely tell just one story without getting myself thrown out or disinvited from future ones: At dinner the other night I sat next to author and professor Stephen Prothero whose work I have followed for some time in the pages of USA Today. We were having a great conversation discussing religion, politics, movies and books and it was only when we got to the topic of comparing what it was like writing books before and after the advent of the net that a very small piece of something got caught in my windpipe and I quite literally lost the ability to breathe. I tried to gulp down some water but to no avail. Sensing my desperation, Stephen asked for permission to slap my back and I quickly nodded. Three whacks later I still couldn't breathe and finally surrendered to the fact that I was simply not going to be able to breathe again and I imagined that the next scene would involve a stretcher and an ambulance. When I surrendered to not breathing, somehow a tiny pathway opened up and the smallest amount of air flowed through. It took a couple of minutes and some more water before we were able to resume our conversation.

I'm sure there's a deeper meaning to be culled from that story, but frankly, I'm too intellectually exhausted to find it. But I think it has something to do with what the Weekend represents: that we all need, and have much to learn from, each other.