For whom do I have an “intellectual romance”?

This question was posed to me on Twitter today, with the stipulation that I keep it to people still living. It still being broad, I’m going to narrow the scope by thinking outside my field. In fact, I’m avoiding traditional areas of scholarship entirely. This has the additional advantage of also avoiding the embarrassment of naming certain, revered colleagues. (I’m not immune to the “wonk crush.”)

I’ve long been attracted to just about anybody who exhibits true and pure professionalism, in the sense of an attention to and reverence for nuances and fundamentals. Naturally, such people are at the top of their profession. They’re not hard to find. Here are just a few of my favorites, in different areas of arts, entertainment, and journalism (these are in no particular order):

  • Bill T. Jones — I’m not even that appreciative of his dances or dance in general. But to hear this man talk about dance and history and movement is sublime. He’s got it.
  • Andy Goldsworthy — Now, his art speaks to me. To watch him do and talk about it is a treat. I highly recommend his DVD, Rivers & Tides.
  • Steven Colbert — The man needs no introduction.
  • Meryl Streep — Who can possibly appreciate professionalism and quality and not be in love with Meryl Streep?

  • John Lithgow — I’ve just always liked him. His whole being speaks to me. I can’t explain this. (My parents have met him, and I’m very jealous.)

  • Terry Gross — The master of the interview.

I could go on, but I’ll stop there.

Aaron Grote noted on Twitter that these are not romances so much as crushes (we’re still talking “intellectual” here). The former is a two-way relationship, the later not.

Related, I once listed five people I’d like to have lunch with. It was a similar exercise to this one, though the results were different. It was over three years ago. I’m over Nate Silver. I’ve met Michael Pollan, not that he’d remember me. Acknowledging the obstacles, I would still like to meet Richard Feynman (dead).


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