Back in the U.S.S.R, summer of 90: a dead rat
berry juice out of what looked like a miniature oil
tanker. People shared the drinking glass, rinsed
each time with city water—what Tchaikovsky
The other evening back then: I read an article
in The New Yorker about a rat who pushed
himself half through one of the city’s diamond
woven trash baskets, turned right and squeezed
one-quarter of the way back to where he started.
Stuck. Foisted by his own U-turn.
The rat caused concern from passersby and
police finally rescued it. “Talk of the Town”
made it a feature article.
Teaching in high school, I remember our
identifying with a short story about rats in
a laboratory maze. Rat Education: shock
the rat when he makes a wrong turn:
reward with no-shock when he’s
As part of the experiment: once mastering
right from wrong, the rat is then never
allowed righteousness. Turn left or turn
right: punishment. Shocked until catatonic
with indecision. Every move, stunning.
A wholesome & proper image for a crucial
state of mind in higher, higher education,
prerequisite for Platonic or Socratic “dialectic.”
Proper confusion induced by cross-questioning:
all assumptions and terms exposed and undercut.
Elenchus, it’s called: undermining and exposing
inadequacies: cave & culture conventions,
arbitrary habits and habitats we might
think intrinsic—what moderns call
aporia: no pores, portals,
or passage way.
Aporia: considered the beginning of the
agon(y) of philosophy: stunned stupid
and ready for study.
“Agony” used to mean contest: the protagonist,
antagonist relationship.. Agon: act, age, agent,
agile, agitate, cogent, essay, exact, examine,
fumigate, fustigate, navigate, litigate, purge,
prodigal, transact, and squat: all part of
a Latinate family tree where
The Greek agein means to drive, lead.
Also-agogue as in pedagogue & demagogue
as well as “anagogue,” “antagonize,” “castigate,”
“stratagem,” “synagogue.” ag is the Indo-European
root Can you see or hear the ag ag ag ag ag ag ag
in each word? Children, grand-children, great-great
grandchildren, all carrying the sounds of the father,
Agein includes the notion of weight, as in ‘to weigh,”
and becomes axios meaning worthy, of like value,
weighing as much. "Axiom," "axiology"; the science
of values, an agony proper to the beginnings of reason.
Knowing the weights, the values, the burden and
The rat trapped and knowing it: agonizing.
Origins of philosophy according to the
early Greeks. Beginnings of religion
for anyone in a fox hole or
bottomed out, say.
What? What the? What the hell?
What the hell kind of deal is that? Etc
knick knack paddy-whack, give the dog a koan.
If you say yes I will strike you.
If you say no I will strike you.
A-poria: perfect for the beginnings of Liberal Art
as well as transformational learning if not
metamorphosis. Not to be collapsed,
conflated, or confused with your
liberal arts: white-collar