Swanning into the first day's madness at the Davos Congress Centre, I gazed at the elite before me; hundreds of intent faces staring down at hand-held screens, imperceptibly raising razor-sharp eyes to scan the midlevels of others' identity badges; attractively manicured hands lifting dainty espressos to talking lips at cool white bar counters, the air rabid with internet activity. I envision emails, if they were to suddenly materialize from the ether, to fill, Hitchcock-like, the clean space and extinguish all artificial light. So I turn to mine at 7:45 AM -- one from ASOS and the other from Amazon's Local Deals. I guess I won't be dialoguing with Christine Lagarde today....
Someone quotes Yo-Yo Ma because they know him, "bilateral" is heard more often than a greeting, one is concerned about "complex simplicity," "de-coupling," "sequestering," "explicit and implicit memory storage," someone else likes "friction in that boundary" and "ecovative design," engineering is to "systematically implement possible futures," benign senescent forgetfulness is okay, and a wealthy philanthropist from Tel Aviv whispers in my ear "What do you call a Jewish monk?"
Daily sessions run all day long with seductive titles: "Thinking Fast and Slow", "The Human Capital Context," "The Global Design Challenge," "The Future Value Chain," "Scenarios for the Russian Federation," as well as innumerable others involving continents, regions, cities, and the GDP of humanity with its need for food, health, stability and resources. There is a palpable thirst for knowledge. Seminar rooms fill up quickly, frenetically, with friendly fervour; queuing to get into them becomes a way of life.
And unknowingly, like a caffeinated slow drip, one enters the realm of Davos, becomes absorbed and ultimately engages with the process of ideas, dialogue, and more times than I thought possible, brilliance. An artist has digitzed a three-dimensional spider's web with the help of NASA and ISS, another has made haunting works of art out of Brazilian favela rubbish while giving 1500 rubbish dwellers new jobs, three young Californians ricochet the walls with mind-blowing ideas for their start-up web businesses... and so it goes on, a mass of brain power in one big building. I quietly mouth "wow" to myself, and other times I venture a comment and a question, sticking to my gut feeling that we are leaving elements of our inner selves behind in our ever-constant search for the new and the miraculous. And no one chides me for it, on the contrary, some seek me out later and agree with my viewpoint, even if some of the panellists have not.
And Davos' founder, a minor deity with beaming minions at his heels, floats in and out of his office while the chosen few are allowed to enter, all hushed reverence and, I could swear, some genuflection. The truth is that over the last 40 years he has built this cosy little get-together at an unglamorous Swiss ski resort into a global phenomenon. So I lower my knitting needles of kinship with Mme Lafarge and embrace much of this achievement.
Oh, and a Jewish monk is a schmonk.