Ink Soup: THE TUNA DIALOGUES
by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
SEATTLE, Wash. -- My cat Huck has now reached, and even exceeded, the ag= e of discretion, and is, like all cats, naturally fond of philosophicaldisc= ussion. Too fond, as will appear below.
I lately discovered that he had gone so far as to borrow from mybedside = shelf the dialogues of Plato and, glad to have learned of thisnew interest,= I wondered whether I might test his understanding of theSocratic method, w= hich, as readers of INK SOUP will doubtless know, isthat of arriving at the= truth by adroit and persistent questioning.
Finding myself alone with him on a bench overlooking the Puget Sound,I d= ecided to essay a trial of his progress in dialectical skill.
Would you not agree, Huck, I said to him, that of all pleasures thoseof = the mind are the greatest?
Certainly, said he.
And that of those pleasures themselves, none compares with thepleasure o= f aesthetic reflection--the pleasure of contemplating thebeauty, say, of a = flower, or of a tree, or of a meadow in bloom...
Or of a bowl of tuna, said Huck. You would agree, would you not, that = the appetites deemed by wise mento be lower, those that Spring from our phy= sical being, such as thedesire for sexual pleasure, for comfort, for food..= .
Especially chunk light. ... for food of any kind, for purely bodily we= ll-being of any kind,ought to be held in contempt by those who aspire, as w= e do, todistinction of a moral and intellectual nature?
Of course, excep= t for tuna.
But even among the most desirable virtues of the mind, some, you would s= urely agree, are more to be cultivated than others? There are some desires= that, other considerations aside, confer honor upon the one who desires?=
Yes. The desire for tuna, for instance.
Yet it is possible to assume that there are distinctions to be made even= among the grosser pursuits of life, those seldom encountered by persons of= our contemplative sort, though, when encountered, be it by chance or inten= tion, not altogether to be kicked, as one might say, out of the old bed?
Tuna comes to mind.
Tuna does seem frequently to come to mind, in your case, which leads me= to wonder whether you would not agree that the person of philosophical ben= t ought to resist those recursive, often annoying or even disabling ideas t= hat seem to settle in, to take up residence as it were, in ourminds, and re= fuse to leave when asked?
Tuna leaves without being asked. Especially ch= unk light.
The bowl, of course. The way it vanishes is downright uncanny. Nor do = I recall my ever having actually asked it to leave.
I perceive -- please= correct me if I am wrong, my dear Huck -- that tuna has for you the obsess= ive, the all but irresistible appeal that cigarettes, say, have for the nic= otine addict. Have you ever considered ways of dealing with this temptation= ?
Indeed. I yield.
With your permission, my dear cat, I am going to propose that we shift t= he field of our discussion back once more to those purely mental, even loft= y, matters with which we began.
We all have, I am sure,ideals -- things that can be imagined, even by th= e lowest of natures, but whether imagined by persons of resplendent virtue = or by those who write newspaper columns, are universally acknowledged to be= abstractions, unattainable here on earth.
Have you, for instance, such an ideal?
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus ofCompa= rative Literature at Princeton University.