Lessons Learned / Mike Turpin
Published 12:45 pm, Thursday, August 25, 2011
Aristotle: Plecia, I want a word with you.
Teen: (hammering with a chisel) Just a minute, Father. I am finishing up this instant tablet. (More chiseling) There -- now, what is it father?
Aristotle: Your mother informs me that instead of attending philosophy class today you were seen exchanging tablets with a group of teens behind the amphitheater. I have it on good authority that one of these boys was actually a Spartan.
Teen: (clearly lying) It wasn't me. I was in philosophy, and I did not go near the amphitheater during the daytime. I know the rules about going close to the rushes.
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Aristotle: (raising an eyebrow) Diogenes was wandering in the rushes and watched as the girls and boys were flirting and exchanging tablets.
Teen: (looking guilty) Diogenes? The ascetic? Why do you even talk to that wandering lunatic? He lives inside a clay jar. He never takes a bath. He walks around Athens with a lamp, in the daytime. And even if I was with Spartans, which I was not, they could teach us a thing or two about sticking up for ourselves. They're much more sophisticated than the Athenian boys, who just wrestle and discuss philosophy and logic.
Aristotle: Aha! So you admit it!
Teen: Father, you are ruining my life.
I am the only Athenian girl who doesn't have a messenger to deliver my instant tablets. Lycestra has her own scribe and her own messenger.
You and mother still think it's 500 BC instead of 300 BC. Wake up. You have no idea what it is like to be the daughter of a philosopher who lives in the past.
Aristotle: (looking perplexed) First of all, Lycestra's father is an Oracle and makes many drachmae giving advice. I am a mere academic at Plato's Academy.
You know I'm thinking about tutoring that Macedonian prince, but I am not in it for money.
Teen: (sensing an opening) You give everyone the impression you are so progressive with your speeches and your teaching, but you will not even allow me to go to the Pan-Hellenic Concerts at Thermopylae. You preach freedom of thought, but you keep me a prisoner. If you ask me, you are a master of the great hypocrite.
Aristotle: (looking insulted) I cannot believe you would say that. When you wanted to dye your hair green for the festival of Promethia, your mother and I agreed.
You wanted a magpie as a pet and as your muse. We let you have the bird even though it defecated all over my tunic.
Teen: (rolling her eyes) Whatever ...
Aristotle: I told you not to use that word anymore unless you are contrasting between logical points and are uncertain of the value difference between the two. I find the term dismissive and disrespectful.
Teen: (shrugging) OK, how about everything you say has no relevance to me and my unfulfilled needs prevent me from relating to you on any level? If I didn't depend on you for food and shelter, I would denounce my filial relationship with you as some queer joke by Zeus and flee to Troy to become an actress in dramatic theater. I want my freedom! (Stomps her foot)
Aristotle: (clasps his hands and smiles) Fabulous. That is what I am talking about. You have been listening in humanities class. You mentioned all your necessary and possible prerequisites. You are using modal logic. While your opinions are not worthy, they are well stated.
Teen: (screaming) Father, you are not listening to me -- (hesitates) -- I have a date tonight with a Spartan named Leonidas. He has asked me to go to the Pythian wrestling matches and to dine with him afterward at the Aqueduct Grill.
Aristotle: Have you gone to the public fountains to fill the goatskin sacks with water?
Teen: I was going to do that later. I'm still considering whether I want to do it. I heard you tell your student the other day that it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
Aristotle: How you twist my words.
I meant that you can open to other views without accepting them.
It does not mean you should avoid fulfilling your most basic of covenants, your family chores. (The door opens; a dwarf enters and hands the teen a tablet -- the dwarf waits and looks bored as the teen smiles while reading the tablet. She hands the dwarf a new message. He leaves.) What is this?
Teen: (looking lovesick) That was from Leonidas. I told him I would meet him when the shadows reach the steps of the amphitheater.
Aristotle: If you leave this house tonight, you will be grounded for the entire Delia Festival!
Teen: (under her breath) Whatever.
Aristotle: (cringing) There is that word again. It means nothing and torments me like a scratching cat on the wooden door of my soul.
Teen: (changing tactics) Father, how will I ever be independent unless I am allowed to make my own choices? I need a chance to make mistakes, learn and depend on my own thinking. Don't you tell me every day "Happiness depends upon ourselves?"
Aristotle: (closing eyes and reflecting) Perhaps -- you have a point. But stay away from the rushes and be aware that I am going to tell Diogenes to keep an eye on you.
Teen: (looking excited) Oh, thank you, Daddy!
Aristotle: Oh, now I am Daddy?
Teen: Yes, and I take back everything I said. Can I have 40 drachmae to buy squid to throw at the winning wrestlers?
Aristotle: Didn't I advance your allowance through the festival?
Teen: I cannot remember -- please? (She smiles a frozen smile.)
Aristotle: Very well. But get that water from the fountains!
(He hands her coins. The teen runs off into another part of the house. She begins furiously chiseling another message.
He picks up a tablet and tries to read it.
It is written in a bizarre code of half words and acronyms.
He shakes his head and puts the missive down.
A magpie flies up, alights on his arm, hops up and poops on his shoulder, then flies away.)
Aristotle shakes his head, "The gods, too, are fond of a joke."
Check out Mike Turpin's blog at usturpin.wordpress.com.