A conversation with Cocrates

There’s an old guy living in my apartment complex who fancies himself a philosopher. His name is Cocrates. He’s a nice guy, and he seems harmless enough. However, he’s one of those people who drags unsuspecting folks into rambling, never-ending conversations from which escape is difficult.

I’ll usually see him loafing by the laundry room, or by the complex’s front office, dressed in his white, flowing robe and stroking his long, gray beard. I always say hi … then immediately regret it. For to acknowledge Cocrates is to submit yourself to his profound philosophical orations.

Last Saturday morning, I left my apartment to go to the store. Cocrates was standing near the bottom of the stairs.

ALLEN: (Please don’t let him see me. Please don’t let him see me.)

COCRATES: Good day, Allen.

ALLEN: Good day, Cocrates. What are you up to?

COCRATES: Pondering, Allen. Forever pondering. At this moment I am engaged in a mental struggle to dissect the elements of rationality and reason.

ALLEN: That sounds thrilling.

COCRATES: Upon what pursuit are you now embarking, Allen?

ALLEN: I’m going to pick up some beer for a party I’m throwing tonight. I’ve got a few of my friends coming, as well as my girlfriend and her friends. We’re cooking hamburgers. It should be fun.

COCRATES: Would your social gathering perhaps benefit from the presence of a learned and enlightened philosopher?

ALLEN: Um … I … maybe.

COCRATES: Then I graciously thank you for your invitation. However, before I accept, I must dedicate some thought to this generous proposition. I feel we must address this topic with an open and inquisitive mind.

ALLEN: How do you mean, Cocrates?

COCRATES: Well, dear Allen, in my judgment, for me to attend a party, I must first ascertain all the distinct elements that compose this rather broad and general term. You follow me so far?

ALLEN: I would say so, Cocrates.

COCRATES: Indeed, how can one engage in the act when the act’s definition is not fully understood? Now, I possess a general sense of the term “party.” In its simplest form, it can be understood as a mere gathering of individuals in a common location to participate in an occasion of festivity. But does this raw, broad and overly general definition suffice in the era of rational thought we are attempting to introduce to society? I would say not. I would think in this new era of critical thought, broad and simplistic terms should be placed under a microscopic lens and examined in more intricate detail. This would have to include our present notion of “party,” which I believe to be insufficient for modern times. What do you think, dear Allen?

ALLEN: I’m thinking I probably should get that beer, Cocrates.

COCRATES: Well, indulge me, if you will, with a moment of your time. Fill my empty head with wisdom. Tell me, dear Allen, what elements can you name that serve to constitute a party?

ALLEN: Cocrates, look, I don’t want to be rude —

COCRATES: The question has been spoken, and now ignorant silence lingers in the air.

ALLEN: (Sighs.) Well, man, I don’t know. Fun, friends, laughter, food. You’d find all those elements at a party, I suppose.

COCRATES: You suppose? You have no more conviction than being supposed? Your list is a fairly meager selection, is it not, dear Allen? Are there not more elements that compose a party? Is there not interaction, communication, intimacy and basic human relationship? Are these not also distinct components we should take into consideration?

ALLEN: And alcohol.

COCRATES: Alcohol?

ALLEN: Yeah, alcohol. You’ll find alcohol at any good party. Speaking of which —

COCRATES: Of that I’m sure. And at this step in our investigation, we can begin to examine how certain elements of a singular definition can influence other elements of the same term. For does alcohol not affect — either positively or negatively — the tenets of human relationship? Moreover, can’t we view alcohol and human relationship as two components that help compose the definition of “party”? For some, intoxication enhances social interaction. That’s why alcohol’s commonly referred to as a “social lubricant,” is it not?

COCRATES: Why are you laughing?

ALLEN: Sorry. It’s just that you said “lubricant.”

COCRATES: It’s apparent that yours is a simple mind — one that could benefit from education. Therefore, it is imperative we discuss these ideas so we can narrow what’s now a broad term into smaller, more manageable concepts — is it not?

ALLEN: I don’t follow.

COCRATES: Precisely so. See here: Human relationship can encompass a broad range of stages, from “mere acquaintance” to “intimate lover.” Now, a party, we can contend, provides a fertile meeting ground for males and females to acquire mates. I could delve further into the background of this theory, but I fear that your preliterate mindset can’t digest such complexity.

Now, within the confines of a party, males and females — fueled by hormones and Heinekens — will often engage in conversation, which can lead from casual friendship to fiendish fervor. Am I not correct so far?

ALLEN: You are, Cocrates. Though I drink Heineken Lights to keep my weight down.

COCRATES: Quite so. We have established — at least for the purposes of our discussion — that parties aid in the pursuit of prurience. They can forge passionate relationships and conjure heartfelt intimacy … at least until the booze wears off.

ALLEN: Speaking of which —

COCRATES: But our work is not yet complete. We must now investigate our definition of “party” even further, to bring shape to this amorphous term. Surely, through articulate discourse, we can characterize the idea properly.

ALLEN: Cocrates —

COCRATES: Perhaps the angle of investigation is slightly skewed. Perhaps —

ALLEN: Dude, Cocrates — enough. Seriously. I don’t have the time to stand here all day. I got a life … sort of.

COCRATES: I understand, dear Allen. You’re not accustomed to thought. You’d rather stay mired in idiocy than achieve enlightenment. I journey for knowledge while you dwell with the dunces. But your case isn’t hopeless. Your fragmented thinking requires guidance and nourishment. You’re a slab of stupidity to be refined with thought — an empty pitcher to be filled with wisdom.

ALLEN: Actually, I’m an empty pitcher to be filled with beer, which is why I’m headed to the store. Good day, Cocrates.

COCRATES: Good day, Allen.

ALLEN: (Dude, it’s going to suck if he shows up tonight. I really hope he doesn’t.)

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