A week ago last monday I was on cloud nine all thanks to Tim McHenry at the Rubin Museum in New York. I was booked to appear as part of their Brainwave series where they put together scientists to talk about the brain with artists who have an interest in such things. The role call for the event was truly awesome with the likes of Tom Wolfe, Paul Simon, Daniel J. Levitin, Paul Rozin, Daniel Goldman, Laurie Anderson, Semir Zeki, Richard E. Nisbett, Lewis Black, R.L. Stine, Joseph LeDoux, Darren Aronofsky, and Alva Noë. These guys are all major players so you can imagine how daunting the evening was, as I was paired up with Literary Prize Winner (twice!) Peter Matthiessen.
My event was sold out and so it was going to be a capacity audience. But what to do and say? Tim and his team were great. He said he wanted magic, intellectual enlightenment and resounding applause. Unfortunately, I had left my bag of tricks in the hotel but remembered a couple of easy ones that always leave most of the audience baffled. But he wanted it all in under 7 mins and it was not clear what Peter was going to say.
As it was, Peter let me do my thing and the evening settled into an enjoyable hour of discussion and mostly questions from the audience. For that hour, I felt a glimpse of what it is like to be the centre of attention of a group of people genuinely interested in what I had to say. But before I let this event go to my head, let me tell you about the episode just before I went on. I was sitting in the front row awaiting to be introduced when this NY lady sat down behind me and then turned to the next guest. “Oh, I thought that this was Steven Pinker tonight. Do you know who this Bruce Hood guy is as I have never heard of him. Is he any good? I was really hoping to see Steven Pinker!” I guess I still have a fair way to go.
So, I turned round to her and said that I had heard that he was marvelous. Of course, when I got up onto stage the penny dropped. Thankfully the lady appeared at the book signing after the event saying how wonderful the evening was and bought a signed copy…so it was worth the mistaken identity.
All things considered, the evening was really a great success and I cannot wait to do something like it again. To top everything off, Tim honored me with a Buddhist shawl which now has pride of place among my SuperSense souvenirs.