31 March 2008

E.O. Wilson or Meeting a Personal Hero

It was my birthday this Saturday but the best present of all happened a bit earlier in the week, when I was working as a bookseller for a conference. There were a lot of big names at the conference, not to mention a few people I had worked with in the past. Although I didn't see or hear much of it I got to chat with many people as they passed through our made-for-the-occasion bookstore. One of those people just so happened to be E.O. Wilson. I'm guessing that many of the scientists reading this will know exactly who he is. But for those of you who don't he is a biologist (primarily an entomologist) who has been an active voice for conservation (he must be about 80 now).

I actually got to see and hear his plenary talk (thanks to my supervisor!) which was set up like a fireside chat. it was a wonderful talk. The most memorable moment for me was when he discussed how important he felt it was that children should be able to explore the natural world on their own terms, that zoos and botanical gardens are great places for children if they get to explore but if they go to see the labels on the specimens and animals it is the worst way for them to experience it. And then he said "I think the largest enemy of the natural world are soccer moms [who over schedule them and do not let children discover for themselves]". This got a lot of laughs from the audience and later a woman started her question by saying "I'm going to overlook your snide remarks about soccer moms...." Wilson replied "Oh, don't! Stay angry and mull on it for awhile". And that is the part of the quote that I savor because isn't it true that too often we are soothing ruffled feathers to the extent that we don't think through whey something makes us angry or if it should make us angry? I hope to use that quote in the future.

Later, after his plenary, E.O. Wilson came down to the bookstore to sign books. He had a huge line. At the very end was me, an armful of books that other people had asked me to have him sign because they had places they had to be (although I must admit that I don't really understand that point in having your book signed if you don't get the opportunity to chat with the author). As I was the last in line we had time to chat and he was very gracious. He talked about how when he flies anywhere he always tries to calculate how far a child would have to walk from any subdivision or housing unit to the nearest thing resembling wilderness. I had a book of my own I wanted signed and we had been chatting for awhile and I had mentioned that I was an -ologist so when I put my book down and said, "and this one is for me" he announced, "ah, well you, you get an ant" and not only did he sign my book but he drew me an ant (he is very well renowned for his work with ants) in it and then a conference organizer snapped a photo of us!


  1. That sounds so exciting!! It sounds like an amazing experience.

  2. That's fabulous. I tend to get star struck when I meet people I admire.

  3. That sounds very inspiring. And it's true we often try to soothe arguments - and what he did might have made her think, probably without making her any more peeved than she already was. It's easy to botch that sort of thing - I'll probably go on soothting when possible.

  4. of course you get an ant.

    of course.

  5. how great! and that really is fabulous, that quote. sometimes we do need to stay angry for a while. and sometimes we need people to stay angry at us for a while, so they'll figure out why THEY are angry.

    love the pic, by the way

  6. Oh wow! That's SO cool!

    Happy belated birthday!

  7. I like your observation about the feather ruffling. We don't like having the truth pointed out do we? I'm learning to laugh at myself more. After all I am flawed, I might as well allow myself to be amused by it.

    That's cool about the book inscription, a personal doodle or illustration makes the meeting more meaningful.

  8. What a great experience and I soo agree about "exploring"! My brother and I did thatas children...and continue as adults; I call it adventures.And yes-kids are over scheduled, it's a shame.
    Happy Birthday Wayfarer!

  9. Happy birthday!

    I haven't met a hero since I was 10and met Peter Beardsley. He was lovely; I was completely tongue-tied. I think I'd be the same way now! I'm glad your experience was so positive!

  10. Hi, You have been invited and “tagged” with a new meme, please check out my blog for details—enjoy.http://macbeanadventures.blogspot.com

  11. Cool! How wonderful for you that you not only got to chat with someone you admire but he was gracious and kind and human. What a powerful thing an ant is!

  12. amanda, it was!

    hypoglycemiagirl, I didn't have time to get nervous or star struck.

    silver fox, oh, no doubt I will too, more often then I would like, but every now and then I'll think of E.O. Wilson and do otherwise.

    jen, grin!

    maypole, indeed, it's so true. And thanks on the photo! Another amaryllis of my mother's.

    ecogeofemme, thanks for the birthday wishes!

    ms chica, indeed, the ability to laugh at ourselves may be the most important skill we can have.

    veo, it was indeed!

    doris rose, thanks for the birthday wishes! Indeed, exploring is very important and the key to having adventures.

    cae, it's been that long? Maybe you need more heros (who are alive)in your life?

    doris, I'm on it...but I do have one from amanda that I must do first!

    sally forth, it was so amazing.

  13. That is awesome! I love meeting people who accomplished a lot, and yet have such a fun personality and stay grounded!

    Late Happy Birthday!

  14. I. Would. Die.

    He sounds as amazing in person as his work is. Happy belated birthday!

  15. (Please pardon the possible duplication of this comment. Don't think the first or second try posted.)

    That's so wonderful about the ant drawing! It's so significant!

    I just attended an Open Education conference where the theme was the value of unsupervised play for children. Great thinking points.

  16. I'd be starstruck too!

  17. sciencegirl, thanks! I agree - that's what makes them true heros to me.

    seeking solace - thanks!

    dancingfish - it was amazing! and thanks for the bday wishes!

    abernier - no duplications found! I hate it when blogger eats my comments. Sorry you had issues. The ant was so significant. It totally made my month.

    flickamawa - yeah, he was amazing.

  18. It was extremely interesting for me to read the post. Thanx for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to this matter. I would like to read a bit more on that blog soon.


Please leave your messages here...I am always delighted to have comments!