A meeting is the most fundamental form or unit of interaction among humans. As humans have to constantly interact with other humans, meetings cannot be avoided. Hence, the meeting has become a part and parcel of our lives. Every meeting has an agenda, the raison d’etre for the meeting, which is entwined with the proposed topics of discussion of the meeting. Every meeting is attended by a certain number of attendees, is presided over by a chairperson. The minutes of a meeting represent everything that is discussed at the meeting. The minutes, in other words, are a record of the meeting proceedings. The date and time of a meeting are collectively known as the meeting schedule.
Meetings may be of various kinds. A birthday party is a meeting of the invited guests and the host, whose birthday it is. Presents are exchanged (the host also has to give return presents to his or her guests as a token of gratitude for their presence), games are played, prizes are won and food is served. The main meeting agenda for a birthday party is the host’s birthday. If anyone is assigned the task of documenting the meeting minutes of a birthday party, they will record all the games and the other events conducted at the party, how everyone entertained themselves, the nature of the food that was served, etc.
A business conference is a meeting of a more serious nature. In a business conference, business strategies are delineated, goals are set, courses of action are charted out for the growth and expansion of the business. Such a meeting, unlike a birthday party, need not always end on a positive note. A business conference may end in discord and disagreement. Also, it may be decided at the conference to sack some people in the interests of the company. It is mandatory to take down the meeting minutes of a business conference. To stimulate the meeting management process, certain brilliant meeting management applications have been invented. A meeting management application is a meeting management software that helps to automate the meeting process. Reliable meeting management software can do wonders to a meeting.
A war is also a meeting. The meeting agenda of a war consists chiefly of fighting and of defeating the adversary, apart from grabbing whatever spoils there are to be seized. A war is a meeting that results in killing and death.
A Summit is a meeting between different nations. At a Summit, different countries meet to discuss how they can conserve the environment, how they can arrest climate change, how they can curtail emissions. The meeting minutes of a Summit also have to be recorded in detail so that politicians, the media and the public understand whether the Summit was fruitful or whether it ended in a stalemate (as most Summits do) on reading the meeting minutes. Nuclear programs and policies of nations may also be discussed at Summits where the meeting agenda is nuclear disarmament, no first use and proliferation policy, etc. Summits can also be economic Summits. In economic Summits, the meeting agenda that is tabled for discussion comprises economic and trade policies, the issue of subsidies, trade reforms and trade norms of nations and whether such norms and policies are in line with World Trade Organization (WTO) policies.
A meeting can also be a political meeting. The chief purpose of any political meeting is to procure more supporters for the party that has summoned the meeting. Charismatic political leaders can influence the masses by the sheer force of their words. As a result, political meetings lead many people to repudiate their own parties, switch loyalties, tergiversate and defect to the opposite camp i.e. the party, which is conducting the meeting. The main aims of a political meeting are to propagate the party that is hosting the meeting as the best political party of the land and as the party, which will bring the maximum number of benefits to the populace, if elected, and to create as many renegades as possible in rival parties and induct them into the party that is conducting the meeting. Chief whips and bigwigs of political parties can be very smart meeting presenters or chairpersons. With their power and charm, they can hold sway over thousands at a caucus. The meeting agenda of a political meeting is framed by a political party with a view to garnering as much popularity and support as possible among the electorate, so that the party can trounce the opposing parties during an election. Most political leaders stop at nothing to attain their objectives.
A political meeting can also be a political meeting between different nations such as the G-8 meetings. In such high-profile political meetings, member nations discuss what stance they should adopt towards non-member nations, whether they should modify the rules and policies of international bodies such as the Security Council and the United Nations and other matters that concern the world.
A meeting can also be a religious meeting. The attendees of a religious meeting are sometimes known as pilgrims while their journey to the religious meeting is called a pilgrimage. The person who calls a religious meeting is generally an important person of that particular religion. The pope can call a meeting of the Christian clergy at the Vatican in a bid to discuss how the tenets of Christianity can be applied to this frenzied world in order to improve values among people, uplift the poor, etc. On Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day, every year, the pope addresses a congregation of people, who assemble at St. Peter’s Square, adjacent to the Vatican, in the hopes of receiving the pontiff’s blessings and for paying tribute to Jesus Christ.
A conclave of Christian cardinals meets at the St. Peter’s Basilica in order to elect a new pope when the existing pope breathes his last.
Millions of Muslims gather at Haj and Mecca in order to pay homage to Islamic saints and to the Prophet. The clerics, Imams, and the muezzins urge the acolytes of Islam to pray to Allah.
The primary aim of religious meetings is to inculcate values and morality among followers and to inform the common public of God and His ways. Other religious communities also conduct religious meetings with the same goal i.e. the spreading of spirituality by expounding their own religious doctrines. Sometimes, religious meetings are also conducted with the aim of converting people of other religions to the faith of the group that has called the meeting.
Conscious and Unconscious Meetings
Now the meetings I have described above are ‘conscious’ meetings, which means that they are attended consciously by the attendees. But in our lives, we generally attend several meetings ‘unconsciously’. When we meet someone on our way to work who informs us that an accident has taken place further down the road, we are attending an ‘unconscious’ meeting. When we chat with someone over a cup of coffee at the cafeteria, we are participating in an ‘unconscious’ meeting. When we are with our families, relatives and friends, we are actually in an unconscious meeting. It is very strange but the truth is that we learn a lot more from unconscious meetings than from conscious meetings and that we attend far more unconscious meetings than conscious meetings. Moreover, even if there is no proper meeting agenda in unconscious meetings, as there is in conscious meetings, the topics of unconscious meetings may make for very valid and practical meeting agenda.
Do not get frightened about what I am going to say next. All the meetings that I have mentioned so far have been normal meetings. But those who are psychic and believe in ghosts claim that there are paranormal or abnormal or weird meetings too. I take this claim with a pinch of salt, as I do not believe in ghosts or in the paranormal. However, since ghost believers insist that there are ghosts, I am compelled to write this paragraph on paranormal meetings. Paranormal or abnormal or weird meetings constitute a planchette where the spirit of a dead person is called and invoked by a bunch of paranormal junkies or weirdos. The purpose of the meeting or the meeting agenda is to ask the spirit or ghost some questions relating to his or her life on Earth and relating to his or her afterlife, wherever he or she is now. They say that when murdered people are called from their graves, they can reveal the names of the people who slew them. This, I consider, is definitely the single most important plus point of such meetings as such revelations can bring to book the wicked.
We have so far discussed the diverse types of meetings, conscious and unconscious meetings, abnormal or weird meetings. We have also specified the meeting agenda of the different meetings. We have noted that meetings are an inevitable and unavoidable part of our lives. Now we shall explore how meetings have affected us and the significance of meetings.
How Significant is the Meeting?
For expatiating on the significance of meetings, I have to tell you of a mega meeting that occurred recently and which I had the honor of attending. It was Christmas day. I was gathered with thousands of people. Exactly where we had gathered, I cannot recall. All that I remember was that the place was an enormous square. It could have been an Italian piazza – St. Mark’s Square in Venice or St. Peter’s Square, flanking the Vatican. It could have also been somewhere in London, in Trafalgar Square, perhaps, in the vicinity of the Parliament Building and the Westminster Abbey. But when I rack my brains I remember a wide thoroughfare with an arch at one end. So, it could easily have been the Champs Elysees. Or was it in front of the Taj Mahal? The meeting venue might have been before the Taj because I can recall an impressive, spotless, white mausoleum at the venue. But there was an edifice with colonnades. Then was it near the Parthenon that the meeting was conducted? In any event, let me not accord too much importance to the meeting venue or the spot where the event was hosted. Let me get back to the substance of the meeting.
The meeting was attended by thousands, in fact, by millions of people. They were a strange motley, an odd potpourri. Some were dressed in hides, some in togas and robes, others in breeches, gowns and Victorian attire. Yet there were others accoutered in saris, salwar kameez and kimonos. There were others who donned jeans and T-shirts. I was wearing a pair of trousers and a shirt. At first, I could not identify myself with the crowd. I thought it was all a fancy dress party. I gravitated towards the men and women wearing jeans and T-shirts. The folks with patrician features were wearing togas and robes. Some forbidding looking Turks even had swords, daggers and scimitars. When I was totally bewildered and wondering whether I should leave, somebody from the crowd rose. He was so tall and imposing, he must have been thrice my height. And that is no joke because I am 6 feet 5 inches. Though his face was wizened, he still looked handsome. His chest was bare. He was wearing a cloth around his waist. He introduced himself as Zeus, the King of the Gods. Everybody cheered and so I cheered. He said that we had assembled in order to understand the significance of the meeting. Then two women came up and sat on either side of Zeus. One of the women seemed very familiar to me. I knew I had seen her somewhere before. I was struggling to remember who she was when Zeus introduced her as his daughter, Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. And then it came back in a flash. I had seen her broken effigy, Venus de Milo, at the Louvre. The other woman who was sitting on the other side of Zeus was my patron, the lady who had asked me to attend the meeting.
The men in togas proceeded towards the rostrum. One handsome man started to deliver a speech, the moment he got to the pulpit. “But Brutus is an honourable man…” he reiterated. The teeming millions were enthralled by his words. My comrades in jeans and T-shirts and I were mesmerized by his being. The speaker frankly admitted that he was remembered for his prowess in rabble rousing. I could not believe that I was gazing up at Mark Anthony.
Suddenly there was chaos. The men and women in hides started to behave savagely, charging at everybody with their flint stones and crude tools and implements. Some of them did not even resemble humans, they seemed like apes and gorillas on their hind legs. However, Zeus managed to pacify them. He said, “let us honor these ancestors of ours, these wonderful Homo sapiens and Stone Age people.” The multitudes at the meeting applauded. The Homo sapiens and Stone Age people appeared to be greatly mollified and even looked apologetic and quietly retreated to their places. Gladiators danced and the meeting venue took the shape of the Colosseum, momentarily. Then a young man in white and bearing a cross appeared from nowhere and we all stood up to give him a standing ovation. Zeus himself got up from his throne and said, “Praise be to Jesus Christ, whose birthday it is today and who is the Savior of humankind.”
Charlemagne looked a bit old to me but strong nevertheless. Constantine was constantly chatting with Christ. He did not seem to want to participate in the meeting. But Attila the Hun cut a sorry figure for himself. He looked a caricature of himself. Not only was he unable to inspire fear in people, but he also looked ridiculous in a pair of acid-washed jeans and an orange T-shirt. Apparently, my group, the men and women in jeans and T-shirts and holding laptops, forced him to dress in that fashion. Attila was near tears, which was absolutely shocking, considering his reputation as a Hun. Even Zeus could not console him. Only Christ managed to soothe the man. Attila smiled broadly at Jesus who blessed him. But the hitch was that Attila was no longer Attila.
The Turks marched forward, some walking, some on horseback. All of them bowed to Christ. I was surprised at this gesture. It is not something we see often in our world. It was only at the meeting that I saw such peculiar sights.
Elizabeth I walked up to the stage straightaway, took up the microphone and said, “In honour of Lord Zeus and his daughters, I would like to declare this meeting to be a superb meeting. I would like to see more such meetings held in the modern world. Also women should have a greater role in everything.” She was the first person to comment on information technology and the many benefits of meeting software. Her aides, Lord Raleigh and Lord Walsingham produced a laptop from somewhere and handed the gadget to her. She opened it and began to type something in it, pretty speedily!
Some Mogul emperors like Akbar, Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb strode across the platform with their heads held high. They waved to the hordes like celebrities do but chose to say nothing. Hitler arrived, a bit late, sought the blessings of Zeus and Christ and announced that he was a ‘changed man’.
I was noticing a distinct trend at the meeting. Only the legendary and the dead were occupying the podium while those of us who are still alive were watching them as spectators. However, Bill Clinton caused much embarrassment to the meeting organizers by jumping onto the dais with a female companion. But Zeus took this sudden liberty in his stride and said instead, “Let the man come up and speak if he wants to.”
Bill Clinton spoke highly of software that helps in meeting management and in business process automation and exhorted everybody present – mythical, dead or alive – to use such meeting management software. He introduced his female companion as Monica something and said that he would not be able to say much more because his wife, Hillary would be waiting for him, back home. Jesus Christ told Bill that he was committing adultery, which is a serious transgression. Bill kept mum. He seemed reluctant to change his ways. Both Christ and Zeus took a grave view of this and looked troubled. However, Attila and Adolf Hitler assured Zeus and Christ that this was no issue, that once Bill died, he would surely alter his ways just as they had done.
Countless eminent grandees arrived at the meeting. It was a feast for the eyes to see them all in person. Lots of delicious food was served to everybody. We gorged on spaghetti, roast turkey, bouillabaisse, lamb quiche, biryani, shepherd’s pie, pilaf, cassoulet, vol-au-vent, sauerkraut, steak, sushi, sashimi, truffles, pudding, black forest cake and ice cream.
Towards the end of the meeting, the lady who was sitting quietly on the other side of Zeus rose. I was waiting for a long time for her to make an entrance onto the stage, as she was my patron and the person who had invited me to the meeting. She was a strikingly beautiful woman, past her youth, but stunning, nonetheless. She seemed detached from her surroundings, not bothered about the adulation she was receiving. Zeus stood up and said, “This, as you know, is my daughter Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom. As she is the wisest of all of us, she will deliver the valedictory speech, the last and final oration of this august meeting!”
Athena stood tall and straight on the stage. A compere, somebody I have seen many times at the Academy Awards, handed her the microphone. Athena cleared her throat.
“Good evening, my friends, my sister Aphrodite, my brother Jesus the Christ, and my father,” she began, “we have come a long, long way from the time we started off as Stone Age and Java, Peking and Neanderthal men and women. My Homo sapien and Paleolithic friends will testify to that,” she said, extending her arm in the direction of the section where the Homo sapiens and the Paleolithic people were seated.
“We have marched steadily forward in civilization because we have met and interacted with one another. Every meeting has taught us something. Even meetings, where we have encountered death and destruction, have had something to teach. Is that not true?” the goddess asked in her commanding as well as mellifluous voice. To which everybody, including me, answered “Aye,” in perfect unison.
“Every meeting that we have experienced has helped us to progress and become more productive. Every meeting has taught us good from bad, right from wrong, even if it has ended in failure. And we have participated and will participate in an infinite number of meetings. When I am asked the question, ‘how significant has the meeting been for humanity?’ I say that the meeting has been immensely significant for us. It has shaped our lives, it has spurred us on to excel, it has enabled us to have control over our destinies. And the meeting minutes that have been generated from the meetings have benefited us tremendously. You cannot bring structure and order unless written records are in place. People of today say that knowledge is power but mere abstract knowledge is useless for society. Knowledge has to be documented properly, chronologically and in an unbiased manner if any inference is to be drawn from such knowledge.
“I am glad that all happenings and events since the dawn of civilization have been chronicled in encyclopedias, journals and historical treatises for the benefit of posterity. Unfortunately, though a large chunk of events has been documented, a large chunk has got lost. It is due to this human lapse that there are large gaps in history. Therefore, I repeat that every meeting should be documented as this one is being,” and she glanced in my direction. I nodded and indicated that I was recording the minutes of the meeting in my meeting software in my laptop.
“Also,” Athena proceeded, “certain meeting management software has come up that is helping people to record meeting minutes easily and swiftly. It has taken us eons to come to the stage when we are able to develop great meeting software. In order to honor all those – Stone Age people, the people of the ancient civilizations, the people of the medieval ages – who have toiled hard and passed knowledge and craftsmanship down the ages so that new-age people can build meeting software, something that they could not in their times, we must ensure that we use this fantastic meeting software. Let the efforts of our predecessors not go in vain. Let us thank them for what they have done and bequeathed to us. The entire history of humankind is nothing but a record of meeting agenda and meeting minutes and this history is replete with examples of the passage and transfer of knowledge so that ultimately humankind wins. The meeting minutes of the ages indicate a celebration of humankind, a celebration of life. Thus the meeting is a celebration of life!”
I had recorded her words verbatim and I have quoted them verbatim too. The meeting was spellbinding. You want to know where you can meet these great folks? You will find them in books and encyclopedias, libraries and archives, on the Internet, if you are fond of shortcuts, saying the same thing in different ways, uttering ultimately one message that all prehistoric, historical and modern events and meetings, tragic or not were and are for the celebration of life. That is how significant the meeting is for us.