Last night, I went to the Money in Politics forum at NECC's Haverhill Campus, an event co-sponsored by the Haverhill League of Women Voters, NECC's Contemporary Affairs club, and other groups also. I wrote a bit about this event, mainly as a signal boost, a few days ago. Let me tell you, I was impressed. And the politics are really interesting and important, and I want to get involved and talk about them, especially since one of the points Lessig emphasized is that people like me -- the people who actually show up for these events -- need to become teachers within the movement, and help other people understand what the issues are, and what's important about them.
But right now, I want to blog about a different part of my experience last night.
Lecture Hall A on the Haverhill Campus of NECC is a pretty big room. It's not quite as big as the lecture halls in movies, but it's pretty big. That said, it seemed a little small for a room for Lawrence Lessig to be in. (I feel a little bad about this, but I'd never heard of Jeffrey Clements before this event, so I wasn't quite as star-struck.)
As the introduction pointed out, Lessig works for Harvard. He went to Cambridge. He started Stanford's Center for Internet and Society. He clerked for a Supreme Court Justice.
So there was something slightly mind-boggling about the fact that he still, literally, fit into a person-sized room.
I think as an extension of my sense of disbelief that someone that important would bother speaking to a group that I could possibly have access to, there's some sort of intuition in my mind that suggests that people of extraordinary importance will be, literally, gigantic. And despite the litany of accomplishments that Lessig has over me, there's something extremely encouraging about seeing firsthand that there's nothing self-evidently special about him, as a person.
It was weird, coming to this realization that I expected people I admire to be physically bigger than humans actually are. I considered not saying anything about it on the internet, on the basis that it's embarrassing. But it also seemed to me like a weirdly important thought, like something I needed to fully explore for my own benefit, and possibly for the benefit of other people who might also have somewhat surreal expectations of important people.
No matter how impressive someone is, no matter how accomplished, no matter how important, nobody gets so famous that they can't fit through doors anymore.
(I will grant that there are people who are so big, physically, that they can't fit through some doors or comfortably stand in some rooms, and I will also grant that some of those people, especially those in sports, get famous. That's kind of beside the point, but I don't think it's totally disconnected.)
Like, there's no possible way that anybody could ever become so significant that it became physically, mechanically impossible for me to be in the same room as them, or for them to address a room I can be in.
And, if I go places where these sorts of people are likely to be -- the giants, or even the medium-sized people who still seem unreachably out-of-scale (Mike Rugnetta, Jeph Jacques, Kelly Link, to name a few random examples) I wouldn't automatically stick out, looking too tiny or in some other way visibly wrongly proportioned.
I mean, my awkwardness and anxiety would still probably give me away. But I feel a sense of relief that, at least, some of the huge gulfs of inherent nature in my head are imaginary.