I attended a writer’s conference yesterday.
Early on I was engaged to host one of the presenters; to make him feel welcome and at ease; to introduce him before he conducted his particular forums. I was honored to be asked and even honored more when I learned who my charge was to be.
Though I will not tell you his name here, I will tell you that I was required to read a novel of his when I was in high school, and later studied his poems in a college level poetry class. If I told you his name, you could probably say the same.
A week before I was to host this man, I learned that a play of his was to be presented nearby. I bought a ticket and reserved a seat then sent him a short email introducing myself, telling him I was looking forward to making his time at the conference go smoothly, and that I would be attending his play…perhaps we could meet?
A response came: short, terse and to the point. I passed it off as a note from a man buried in the work of a new production. I arrived at the play, pre-performance and sighted the playwright. I approached. I put out my hand to gently touch his jacket as he stood alone in the beverage line. He turned, looked at my hand, then at me as though I had stepped over the barrier that kept him from brushing up against such things of little importance.
I passed it off to opening-night jitters.
I sat through the play and was impressed by the weave of prose and intent. It was a fine work. I was glad to have seen it. I would tell him so.
I arrived at the conference the next morning. I re-introduced myself to the man, whom I imagined might be somewhat more relaxed in the casual atmosphere of the lodge-like setting. He sat upon the couch, nose-in-a-book, looked up over his glasses and grunted. I told him I very much enjoyed his play. He grunted again. No “thank-you”, no “so nice of you you to take the time…”. I told him I was there to help him with anything he might need for the day. Again, muffled indifference.
Was he too self absorbed to see it, or too used to seeing it to be impressed?
I gave him a stellar introduction. It would have been hard not to do so with the accolades he has acquired. And I was happy to do so, for I believe that I acquired something of equal value. A simple rule life’s engagement, verified: Appreciate. Appreciate. Appreciate.
But, I dowonder: at what point does a man who spends his life examining the world, choosing the ideal words to describe it and conveying deep emotion with his unique turn of phrase, become dull to those who he, in the end, relies upon to hear those words? And, why?