Abstract: Bertie Wooster has recently spent an evening at Chili’s restaurant, in the company of the great philosophers Buddha and Confucius, and the result was not quite that entry into higher thought that one might have wished. Fortunately, the next time Bertie happens into a Chili’s he’s got his brainy old standby Jeeves with him. And it’s a good thing… Confucius is there again, and this time he’s got Aristotle with him!
There are a handful of defining experiences that tend to make a man what he is–what i mean by that is that growth is often attached to seismic experiences that serve to shake us out of our complacency–and what he is going to be, at various points in the as-yet indeterminate future–as distinguished from what he was, prior to the aforementioned encounters, that is.
Oh dear, let’s try that one again.
Sometimes important things happen to you.
[Ahem] Much better.
Now, the kind of important things that can happen to a fellow–the ones, anyway, that we’re thinking of at the moment–might involve meeting famous dead philosophers in busy restaurants. This sort of thing does not happen to most people on a regular basis, but it appears to be happening to young Bertie Wooster with distressing regularity. Why don’t we sneak a little closer so that we can listen in on the ensuing conversation?
Confucius: Hmmm. What’ll it be this time, the Southwestern Eggrolls or the Cobb Salad. Decisions, decisions.
Aristotle: You ought to delineate the virtues of each in a parallel comparison chart. On the one side, you can rank the advantages and disadvantages to ordering a Cobb Salad, and on the other side you can arrange the data on a Southwestern Eggroll. Then you simply determine which of the two seems less unpleasant, and more enjoyable.
Confucius: My word. Are you really like this all the time?
Aristotle: All. The. Time. It’s a living hell.
Confucius: Man. Wouldn’t want to be you. I just sort of talk about how i think people ought to behave, and stuff.
Aristotle: I would die for a gig like that.
Confucius: It’s certainly got its benefits. But hey, we were starting to talk about the nature of human decision-making, and you were saying….
Bertie: I say!
Confucius: Goodness gracious! If it isn’t Master Wu Stehr! Come, join us! And do introduce your friend.
Bertie: This is my thrice-worthy man, Jeeves. The sort of cove who’s reading 18th century philosophy one minute, and bringing to a swift termination the household problems in the next.
Jeeves: An exaggeration i must contradict, sir, with the deepest respect and gratitude. But am i correct in concluding that you, sir [turning oh-so-slightly] are the philosopher Aristotle?
Aristotle: [obviously flattered] I am, sir! What an astonishing conclusion!
Jeeves: [Bows ever so slightly]
Confucius: You and your friend must by all means sit with us! [scootching over]
Aristotle: Indeed. By all means! [scootching in a somewhat more Aristotelian manner]
Bertie: Well, don’t mind if we do, eh Jeeves?
Jeeves: To be sure, sir.
Confucius: Now, if memory serves, the last time you–Mr. Wu Stehr–sat here with us we talked a bit about a few of your friends and family. And at that time, you mentioned Jeeves here. What a pleasure to be able to meet him at last!
Aristotle: Indeed! He is reputed to be the sort of “middle man” whose choices always adhere to that noble region located between the extremes and excesses of human folly.
Bertie: Well, i say! Some pretty tough remarks they’re biffing at you, eh Jeeves?
Jeeves: Almost entirely exaggerated. One does attempt to do what one can, sir.
Confucius: So, perhaps you can help us resolve a small difficulty. I’m having trouble choosing between the Cobb Salad, and the Southwestern Eggrolls.
Jeeves: If i may offer an opinion, sir, you should order the Cobb Salad on this occasion. Desmond Sneed, with whom i take dinner from time to time on my days off, is in a relationship with Bessie Tellmann, who works in transportation. To shorten the story, i am reliably informed that this week’s shipment of Southwestern Eggrolls has been blighted with cockroaches.
Bertie: There! You see? That was an absolute biffer, Jeeves!
Jeeves: Terribly good of you to say, sir.
Aristotle: Astonishing and gratifying! There’s nothing like the combination of firsthand experience and logical deduction in the improvement of one’s dining habits!
Confucius: I must agree. That was impressive.
Aristotle: So, Jeeves, may i put a question to you?
Jeeves: I shall attempt to render good service.
Aristotle: Okay. So there’s this terribly cute redhead who’s been spending a lot of time over at the Cognitive Diss Disco. I’ve chatted briefly with her a couple of times, she seems nice. Do you think i should pursue a relationship with her?
Jeeves: A question, sir. Does she have a mole on her upper lip?
Aristotle: Astonishing! Indeed she has!
Jeeves: Ah, i feared as much. That would be Mlle. Connie Desmouches. She is a charming girl, to be sure, but i am reliably informed that she has of late been seen much in the company of Lord Habersham.
Aristotle: Blast it all! I was afraid something like that might be the case.
Bertie: Plus, she’s a redhead, what? QED.
Jeeves: Indeed, sir.
Bertie: Many’s been the time Jeeves has rescued me from the clutches of one redhead after another. Lovely girls, and quite stiff enough about the brains, but all in all not a good relational proposition.
Jeeves: The redhead temperament tends not to agree with yours, sir.
Bertie: Right ho! You’ve said a mouthful, Jeeves.
Confucius: This exploration of the dynamics of relationship is indeed stimulating, but i wonder if i might steer the conversation in the direction of the larger issues of statecraft and public policy?
Aristotle: Ah! A direction much to my liking, as well.
Bertie: Biffing idea!
Jeeves: I shall be glad to render forth my opinion, sir, for what it may be worth.
Confucius: Back in my native China, the Emperor has been considering the implementation of a policy whereby the wealthier estates are broken up and distributed among the poorer classes. There are some who say he has been influenced by foreign elements; others claim his mental state has begun to deteriorate. And yet others hail this as a sound policy. What would you say?
Jeeves: I am tempted, sir, to conclude that you are testing me on the soundness of my grasp of–ahem–current events.
Confucius: [laughing] I am afraid that what seems current to me may perhaps be ancient history to you. The time scale of the blog appears to be a bit out of order. Perhaps another question.
Aristotle: I rather like the one you just asked.
Bertie: [examining menu] If i may make a brief o,* this “Molten Chocolate Cake” appears to rate a magna-cum-biff! I say, waiter!
Aristotle: [smiling] It’s not bad. Not bad at all.
Confucius: Okay. Here’s a replacement question. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck COULD chuck wood?
Jeeves: I fear you’ve selected a rather easy one this time, sir. If the current Prime Minister does not wish his extramarital activities to be politicized, then he ought rather to disguise them more effectively, or give them up entirely.
Confucius: Brilliant! Precisely the correct answer!
Bertie: I say! Weren’t we talking about woodchucks and wood and that sort of thing?
Jeeves: Quite so, sir. [bows slightly]
Aristotle: My impression precisely. I fear these gentlemen may be playing a game to which we are unfamiliar with the rules.
Bertie: Well, now, that IS a bit thick, isn’t it.
Jeeves: One speaks in the argot peculiarly suited to the situation, sir.
[He and Confucius snicker demurely for a moment.]
Confucius: So, i have another question, this one for the whole assembled company. If the Southwestern Eggrolls have been tainted, what might be said about the Molten Chocolate Cake of which we all appear to be lusting uncontrollably?
Aristotle: We would need to assemble a certain body of information at the outset. Were the eggrolls and the chocolate cake on the same shipping truck? Did they at any point share a storage facility? Might we perhaps have access to someone on staff here who is able to discuss with us the manner in which the two respective foods have been stored?
Bertie: Oh, hang it all! Waiter! Waiter! I say, one Molten Chocolate Cake here, with or without the complementary insect life.
Jeeves: My employer is a man of decisive temperament where food is involved.
Confucius: Ah! A decisive temperament is not a bad thing, when combined with a desire for the social good and the observation of correct forms. Another Molten Chocolate cake for me, please, waiter!
Aristotle: Well, doggone it. Another here, good waiter!
Jeeves: I shall perhaps opt for the vanilla ice cream instead, if you please.
Bertie: As you wish, Jeeves. You may be missing the most exciting part of the meal–the part that crawls out to greet you.
Jeeves: Indeed, sir. Such was not far from the trend of my own thought.
Confucius: One last challenge, and then we shall all tuck into our desserts. Mr. Jeeves, what is your insight into the ontological status of the common flockbinker?
Jeeves: [smiling sadly] I fear the ontological status of the flockbinker is a bit outside the bounds of my reading, sir.
Confucius: Yet you are familiar with them?
Jeeves: Indeed, sir. I am aware of the concept of the flockbinker.
Confucius: And yet you’ve not formed an idea of their existence or nonexistence?
Jeeves: I… did not exactly say that, sir.
Bertie: What, ho.
Aristotle: It’s a bit of an arcane discussion, Mr. Wooster. There are those–perhaps none present–who hold the flockbinker to be an actually existent entity. There are others who break into paroxysms of laughter at the very idea of flockbinkers. It’s an interesting debate.
Bertie: I say! It’s always been my impression that flockbinkers are fictional, but then, my reading has been somewhat more focused than yours.
Aristotle: [leaning toward Bertie] Your man is a bit of a keen player. He hasn’t actually taken a side on that particular issue, you see.
Bertie: Ah! That Jeeves, you can’t often know what he’s actually thinking.
Jeeves: I hope never to have given offense on that score, sir.
Bertie: Oh, no, far from it. Keeps things interesting.
[The waiter returns with their desserts]
Confucius: I bid you all good health and blessing appropriate to your social station.
The Assembled Company: Wassail!
* For the uninitiated: Bertie sometimes likes to abbreviate his longer words down to a single letter: perhaps for ease of pronunciation, perhaps because it seems somewhat clever, in a somewhat un-clever sort of way.