A funny thing happened on the way to the whorehouse…Friday, March 2nd, 2012
The 5th century B.C. philosopher Zeno is famous for proving the impossibility of getting from point A to Z because one must first get halfway there; then halfway again; and so on, forever. Recent excavation in Zeno’s hometown of Elea, in southern Italy, has turned up an eyewitness account of the circumstances that led to his revolutionary insight. What follows is my attempt to make the ancient Greek text accessible to 21st century readers.
Zeno arose one morning, feeling amorous;
But fearing things might get way too clamorous
Were he to bed the wife of an unphilosophical fellow
Decided to opt for a first-class bordello
Which lay on the other side of ancient Elea.
Knowing every girl residing there was really a
Dazzling beauty, Zeno set forth on his journey
In a karékla (what you & I might call a gurney).
Ten minutes later—already half way there—
Zeno told his slave to halt and lower his chair\
So he could nibble on (what else?) muscari comosum
Which, like Viagra, helps the heart-blood flow from
Amorous breasts to sleepy channels down below
(Making little pocket hoses grow & grow & grow).
Fully equipped, now, for venery to succeed,
Zeno bellowed, “Doulos! Arise and proceed!”
“Get me to the brothel! Don’t waste any time!”
The slave picked up his master and began to climb
Aphrodite’s hill but—halfway to the top—
Losing his footing, let the karékla drop.
Zeno cried “EUREKA!” and began to swear:
“Love’s labor lost! The naked truth laid bare!
Half way up!—ad infinitum!—hard as I may strive
To reach that 5-star whorehouse I shall never arrive!”
From every window lovely paramours waved.
Zeno blew them kisses; desperately craved
Ecstasy he knew could come only from touch;
But Zeno—being a genius—saw that such
Contact was illusory; couldn’t be achieved.
That’s when [26 centuries ago] Zeno conceived
What monists still hail as a ground-breaking notion:
His dichotomy, proving the futility of motion.
Zeno went on to cause more pre-socratic fuss.
(Proving swift Achilles no match for a tortoise.)
Note: References to “ancient” Elia, “muscari comosum,” (hyacinth) “Viagra,” “pocket hoses” are not in the ancient Greek. They are anachronisms interpolated for the benefit of modern readers.
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