Letter to my SonSunday, 28 September
Good Morning Justin…
The darkness brings to life my special nightmare scenarios. With bat in hand I’m forced to patrol this house – switching on lights, room by room. This place breathes with the gathering of an evil my mind has yet to describe. My grip on the bat tightens. My skin crawls. They watch me. I shout to keep them at bay but knowing my fate is out of my hands. A chimpanzee scurries into the light from an adjoining darkened room. It drops to the floor onto its back and beckons me to approach. It seems friendly enough. I scratch its chest. I’m relieved by the presence of this longtime favorite pet. Funny I have no memory of it until now. I awake.
These are the streets of ancient Athens. I’ve been called upon to advise Plato on how to serve up his views in a broadly palatable manner. Brevity is your ally, my friend. Limit your teachings to one page, single spaced. Tell the story of the horse. It captures pretty much all you have that is essential to say. Your story goes something like this: There are all the horses of the world and then there is the conception of what it means to be a horse. Nothing in nature’s existence meets this standard of perfection. A living, breathing horse can only approach the ideal but they all stray, flawed to varying degree from the universal template that gives us horse. As is true with the equine so it is with all things of existence, including man. It is for us, mankind’s artists and philosophers, to determine the mystical underpinnings of reality.
That’s it. And look! We still have room to speak of Socrates, teacher of ethics through reasoned insight, friend and mentor to the young of Athens – participants of a street academy, pursuing truth by means of a discourse that involves answering penetrating questions. Yes, it is a mouthful. But you can bring it to life. You were there Plato. There is no one better able to explain this enigmatic man.
Possibly we should lead with a joke. A healthy laugh beforehand relaxes the listeners and primes their receptiveness to the topic at hand. Well, it seems that Socrates generally began his session by relating a bit of humor. He would dryly expound on some circumstance of everyday life and just as his listeners’ eyelids became heavy he would liven the discourse with an inadvertent fart. Can there be a better punchline? I think not. Of course Plato, being Plato, reminded the gathering that all farts heard in the realm fell short of the ideal. What characteristics describe this ideal? There are three that come to mind; bouquet, tonality or musicality, and audibility.
How can we determine the ideal when this topic appears so subjective? I agree but let us try, nonetheless. Can there be a more promising gaseous bouquet than one provided by a salad mix of bean sprouts, broccoli, garlic croutons and chicken cubes marinated in a sauce that guarantees gastric distress? Sure, Texas chili has its diehard advocates but it falls short in tonal range, unless you think the blare of a truck horn is musical. No, I believe the flatulence we seek begins in a low bass registry and then curves to a soaring treble finale. You know you’ve heard it when after its thrilling conclusion you are irresistibly bound to point finger to the sky and sing out the word, “Excelsior!”
How audible should we make this flatus? I, for one, believe that silence is considered a misfire by any aficionado of the art. Still, this is not an easy characteristic for one to grade because it is context dependent. One audible level does not serve all needs. If, for instance, you are snuggling on a first date it is probably best to keep a breaking wind to a discrete registry – popping a beer tab comes to mind. A small gathering for dinner can be accommodated with a sound level just short of a champagne cork letting loose. Let’s say you’re taking in a lecture in a filled auditorium. This requires a robust trumpeting. I suggest you help yourself to a couple extra helpings of beansprouts beforehand. Also, consider walking up the aisle at the moment of release to insure maximum distribution of the bouquet.
I failed to add the importance of timing. Think of the moment of expulsion as adding an exclamation mark to the proceeding. Make your emphasis memorable by having it immediately follow especially intimate words or the “amen” when saying grace or during a dramatic pause in the course of the lecturer’s pontification. These are some ideas. The main point is to be creative. Finally, keep in mind that a little goes a long way. Surprise is of utmost importance. Going to the well often only deadens the sparkle.