The interviews that we are doing fall into two distinct categories; people we can speak to and people we must study. Individuals continue to sort themselves out into those bins. Although I would like to speak to Saarinen, it is not possible. But he left so much for me to absorb; the rippling walls, the bird-wing buildings, the soaring Arch on the Mississippi River.

MIT Chapel, Eero Saarinen
MIT Chapel, Eero Saarinen, metal sculpture by Harry Bertoia

I’m a professional interviewer, and nothing is as interesting to me as discovering people’s secret hearts. Even as a child, my interest in people’s behavior was deep, and I found myself trying to explore the mysterious territory between intention and action, and between dreams and reality.

Everyone on the Interview list shares a set of characteristics that might not be readily apparent. A shocking number of them are exactly who they meant to be. Many of them have taken active part in spaceflight missions. Most of them are writers. They are all gifted; at least one of them won a MacArthur fellowship, I’m sure more than half of them have given Ted talks. Most of them I’ve known for around 20 years, or studied for around 40.

I feel like most of these people are in some way unexplored territory. Beck is a musician who is often marginalized because of his admittedly inexplicable membership in the Church of Scientology. People want to talk to Bryan Ferry about the fine texture of his suit, when what they really ought to be asking about is the poetry, the compositions. I want to talk about the piano at the end of For Your Pleasure. People don’t often approach scientists as people; I find physicists to be incredibly deep thinkers, I find photographers to be in almost all cases keen philosophers.

I want to cut and paste the poetry together until I find the answers, which of course have been there all along.

E.B. White left a stack of essays tall enough to totter a bit on the table; I’ve read them all so many times that they are a part of who I am. It’s enough for me to work with. And I’m not sure I have to speak to Eero Saarinen to understand the MIT chapel, but if I could, yes, I would want to.

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