Sometimes, a post I’ve just written sparks an idea about what I could write next. An example of that occurred yesterday. I am beginning to wish that it hadn’t.
What did I write yesterday? I am not asking you; I am asking myself. Oh, yeah. An investigation examining the “Life Lesson” implications in a pair of shrunken bright orange ankle socks. It would be unsurprising if you forgot, though it is somewhat disturbing when I do. By the way, after an assiduous search for analogical implications, I came up substantially empty.
Still, we had fun along the way, didn’t we?
Okay so sometime while considering how to write yesterday’s post – at a preliminary stage if you want specifics and who doesn’t? – I thought of including a relevant interlude on Archimedes who, while taking a bath, discovered the theory of… wait, I have to Google the precise nature of Archimedes’ Principle; I know it is generally about “Displacement”… Just give me a moment. This shouldn’t take long.
Okay, I’m back.
(Confession: A majority of that time was spent Googling “Archimedes’ Principle.” A surprising amount, however, went to determining exactly how many dots to include delineating the intervening “Waiting Interval.” I am assiduously committed to getting things perfect. Not for my sake, understand. But for yours.)
Archimedes, who lived in the Third Century B.C., is considered the greatest mathematician of all time. It seems unusual to me that they closed the door on “The Greatest Mathematician of All Time” competition twenty-three hundred or so years ago. You would think somebody more recent would have beaten him out. If I were a mathematician and I knew that the “Greatest Mathematician of All Time” title had been permanently retired, I’d have abandoned mathematical research and become an accountant. I mean, what’s the point?
But, you know, maybe that’s just me.
As the story goes, Archimedes, relaxing in an apparently overfilled bathtub, discovered the method determining the volume of an object with an irregular shape. He then ran naked into the streets screaming “Eureka!” meaning “I have found it!” choosing the pretentious “Eureka!” as he was unable to speak English.
Analogizing – while pursuing an overarching analogy – I planned to link Archimedes’ discovery during the mundane process of taking a bath with my discovering an immutable “Life Lesson” in a pair of shrunken bright orange ankle socks. In the end, the “Archimedes” material did not make the cut, partly because of “length” concerns, and partly because it was only a partially matching analogy, since Archimedes discovered a principle in his established “Area of Inquiry”, while I sought “Eternal Verities” beyond the limited purview of ankle socks.
Still, there appeared to be something there – a flicker of possibility for an impending blog post.
I once read a play about Socrates who, being honored because of his courage – he had fought gamely against an advancing army, sitting helplessly on the ground, because, unbeknownst to his compatriots, he had a giant thorn stuck in his foot and he was unable to retreat. Later during the city state’s victory celebration, the giant thorn still embedded in his foot, when called upon to come up and receive his medal for courage, Socrates remained seated, inquiring sincerely of the assemblage,
“What exactly is ‘Courage’?”
(Inadvertently creating the “Socratic Method.”)
I thought of structuring my blog post in a similar fashion.
Suppose Archimedes bursts out of the domestic “Bathing Area”, excitedly grabs Mrs. Archimedes by the arm, rushing her back to the scene of the “discovery” – the bathtub whose overflowing waters had been displaced in an amount proportional to his body volume – and her immediate reaction is,
“Get the mop.”
So you see where that’s going – the “Unappreciated Genius” and the long-suffering wife who’s had it “up to here” with his irresponsible shenanigans. The question then is:
How exactly do I handle it?
Following the above “Socrates” scenario, Archimedes could have fabricated the “discovery” story as an elaborate subterfuge, masking Archimedes’ oblivious carelessness while conducting the experiment.
“I may have dampened the “Bathing Area”, but I discovered ‘Displacement’!”
Punchline: He later learns he was actually correct.
That’s kind of something, isn’t it?
An alternative direction is the “Battle of the Spouses”, the wife complaining he never helps around the house, Archimedes bewailing her dispiriting lack of interest in his work.
ARCHIMEDES: “It’s just water. We can clean it up.”
MRS. ARCHIMEDES: “We?”
ARCHIMEDES: “Fine. “The Greatest Mathematician of All Time” will clean it up. After I run naked in the streets yelling, “Eureka!’”
MRS. ARCHIMEDES: “First, clean it up. Then, run naked in the streets.”
So there’s that – the “Bickersons”, of Mediterranean antiquity.
Finally, I considered a bisected “He Said, She Said” construction, where I repeat the debacle/slash/historical breakthrough from alternative perspectives. But I decided against it. The approach lacks the immediate fireworks of interpersonal confrontation. And I would be unable to include the wife complaining, “You mildewed the bath mats, and you faded the floor frescos!” with Archimedes responding, “I bet you can’t say that fast – ‘You faded the floor frescos – You faded the floor frescos.’”
It appeared to be the end of the line. Pondering the difficulty, I intuited an insuperable obstacle in the undertaking. At its conceptual heart, “The Battle-Ax Wife and the Beleaguered Husband” scenario felt irretrievably clichéd.
It was now down to this:
I had to abandon the post.
Or find an imaginative way not to.