Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood


A Classical Education: Chapter 4 Going On 5

On Dialogue

It is true, my child, that dialogue is how we come to understand the world. By steady question and answer, between the curiosity of youth and the wisdom of age, we approach truth. And yet though there may not be an end to your questioning, there may sometimes be an end to the answering, as when you find yourself yet again in a conversational cul-de-sac with your mother on the exact details of the demise in battle of Obi wan Kenobi, vis-à-vis the death by old age of Yoda. There are some things we do not know, or have forgotten, or do not give a stuffed fig about, whereupon we must bring our dialogue to an end with an aphorism from the great Xanthippe herself: Ask Your Father.

On Nostalgia (In a busy taverna)

“Hey, hey, hey, HEY, remember that time I said ‘Holy shit’?” Note: this is also an example of a rhetorical question.

On the Myriad Schools of Philosophy

The Logician (aged 4): “I know why chicken wings are called chicken wings. Because: they are wings. From a chicken.”

The Sophist (aged 9): “OK, what about buffalo wings?”

This is what we call an aporia.

The Gods

Although geographically suspect, Thoth, the God of Wisdom, is a perfectly good choice for your Favourite God. Not least because your painstaking pronunciation of the phrase “Thoth, the God of Wisdom”, lisp and all, will cause all about to you melt in delight and shower you with sweetmeats and demand that you say it again and again.

Wisdom is, after all, the goal of all young men. You may seek it from your elders -- some of whom, at twice your age, are full of it. Respect your brother, but retain an open mind, as he is known to spend long hours in the library consulting the comedic scrolls of Bill Watterson as well as the more reliable authorities of Popular Science and How It Works.

If you begin, on the harsh advice of your brother, to doubt the veracity of the gods, be warned that it is not wise to ask a jive-talking Magic 8 Ball if the gods are “really true.” Great unhappiness will follow should the oracular ball respond “IN YOUR DREAMS.”

To restore harmony in the domestic sphere, it is considered auspicious for a parent to shake the Magic 8 Ball until it says “FO’ SHO.” Be thus reassured that the gods have not abandoned you, and your brother shall be justly punished for his excess of sceptical proselytising, although probably not with a hemlock milkshake. This time.

Your suggestion of asking the ball “Did you just lie to me about whether Thoth is really true?” is not without philosophical merit, but recall the paradox: All Magic 8 Balls are liars.

Drama; also, Hygiene (In a public convenience)

Your mythos, or story, is “I need to go to the bathroom! I need to go to the bathroom! I need to go to the bathroom!” Your ethos, or character, is an independent young man who can do everything all by himself. (We do not, at this age, regard such a trait as a tragic flaw, but rather as a laudable expression of heroic aspiration). The dianoia, or theme, of this particular drama is: the eternal balance of convenience vs inconvenience. Also, penises are funny.

Act I

Announce your intention and narrate your performance. This is lexis, or speech. For example: “Hey guess WHAT I’m just using the magic willy window in my Star Wars undies to do a awesome wee! Did you SAW that?! That was AMAZING!”

[NB in younger players, such hubris goes unpunished; this lessens the dramatic effect somewhat but improves morale among the actors, not to mention the chorus]

Chorus: (as if accustomed to such proceedings) “Yes, I saw it. Yes, it was amazing.”

Act II

Adjust your costume, approach the sink, and bang firmly on the soap dispenser six times, without result. Shout “WHAT THE!”

Help is needed; this is a moment of perepeteia, or reversal.

Accept assistance from the Chorus. Praise the results. “Whoa, PINK SOAP! COOL!”

Chorus: (briefly occupying the hero’s aesthetic viewpoint) “Huh, you’re right. It’s all shiny and it sort of glows. That is cool, actually.”

Ignore the Chorus and turn on the tap as far as it will go, such that a great roaring cascade of water pours down. Jump back one step and bring your fists up to your shoulders while yelling “AWESOME!!!!!!!” This is opsis, or spectacle.

Chorus: (apparently genuinely impressed) “Wow!” or possibly “WHOA!”

The handwashing ritual, as the dramatic height of the performance, should be enacted over a minimum of five minutes. Throughout, perform a full range of tongue-extending and eye-rolling gymnastics in the mirror, as if entertained by (or entertaining) a monkey on the other side of a window.

Chorus: (urgently) “Come on. Come on. They must be clean by now.”

At this climactic point, verbal extemporising is encouraged. A ceaseless ululation of “ARDLE ARDLE ARDLE ARDLE ARDLE ARDLE ARDLE” considerably assists the effect, amplifying the tension experienced by your immediate audience while emanating beyond the walls of the theatre to arouse wondrous thoughts in passersby, whether of horror or curiosity. This we call melos, or music.

Chorus: Dramatic hand gestures.

[Optional: the Chorus may moan quietly to itself at this point, expressing impatience beyond endurance, or a bittersweet commentary on the hero’s bumpy progress towards independence, or a combination thereof.]


Rip paper towel from its dispenser, rapidly dry hands. Then abruptly swivel and pause before the mirror to gaze at self (anagnorisis: a moment of recognition).

Now: gently wipe away the chocolate moustache that has lent a mock gravitas to the entire performance. This shall cause a great and nearly unbearable wave of pathos to roll over your audience.

Then, without warning, SLAM DUNK the paper towel into a nearby nappy disposal and FLIP THE LID, just because.


This is catharsis.

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