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The Examined Life - 
A Socratic Dialogue

[British schoolboys were rushed to hospital after taking the erection-enhancing drug Viagra at lunchtime for a dare - Oct 2003.]

Twelve boys are sitting in a London school cafeteria pondering life's meaning and the nature of the small blue pill which each holds in his hand.

"Headmaster Socrates never said we couldn't take them," says Plato. "My soul tells me I should."

"Headmaster never says anything," replies Aris Totle. "Always asking questions. Maybe he really knows nothing like he claims."

"So, you gonna take yours?" questions Plato.

"Yes. I think it is my life's purpose to take it."

Augie the Hippo grabs Aris's arm.

"Hold up," Augie instructs. "What if it is not God's will that you take it?"

"What?" retorts Aris. "You sure God exists?"

"Certain of it," states the Hippo. "And I am sure he would say to toss said article in the rubbish bin."

"That's doubtful," chirps Rene D. Cart. "Maybe it's an evil demon, controlling your mind."

"Are you taking yours?" queries Aris.

"I think, therefore I am," declares Rene confidently.

"Demon? Now that's rubbish." growls Tom Hobbes. "It's a pill. Take it or leave it. Either way you are in trouble. Here comes Leviathan herself anyway."

The boys' teacher passes dangerously close as the pills fall into pockets only to be revealed after Mrs. Rex's bespectacled eyes have turned away.

Manny Kant is the first to continue. "If you take the pill, then you are saying it is okay for everyone to take a pill," he asserts.

"And then everyone gets punished," returns Tom. "We might as well bend over right now."

"Oh, get over it," scoffs Gwif Hegel. "A little authority is a good thing. I admire our teacher's school spirit."

Art Schopenhauer kicks Gwif in the shin. "I will take this pill because it is my will to do so. Screw you!"

Soren K. senses a fight brewing and grabs Art's shoulder to restrain him.

"I think you should both take a chill pill. Gwif, Art is free to take the pill if he chooses, even if it kills him."

"Kills him?" Fred Nietzsche suddenly clamors. "Hell no! I heard it makes you Superman!" He becomes the first to pop his pill, shortly before diving off the table into the trashcan waiting nearby.

"Now that was brilliant. Leave it to Big Head Fred to get us all in trouble," laments Gwif.

"If anyone else is going to down theirs," reminds Tom, "you better hurry. Here comes the warden!"

"I am fairly certain," inserts Wig Wittgenstein, clearing his throat, "that it will not make you a superhero, though you may call yourselves one as language is all a farce anyway. Scientifically, though, this pill, I have learned, increases sustained bloodflow to your penis, therefore maintaining sexual arousal longer than one might expect of the normal erection."

The whole table is stunned at the revelation. Their teacher is momentarily distracted by a food fight among the Level 3 girls as Fred raises his head out of the trashcan.

"Um, translation for the non-geeks in the house?"

"My pleasure," waves the last of the twelve to speak. "It makes Harry Potter's magic wand cast a very strong spell. It makes Captain America salute Old Glory. It makes your pocket rocket--"

J. P. feels a tap on his shoulder.

"Master Sartre? You raised your hand?"

J. P. turns to see Mrs. Rex scowling back at him while retrieving Fred from the can.

"You have something for me, J. P.?"

"Umm... I have to piss!" He doesn't wait for the teacher's sanction and bolts the lunchroom, stuffing the pill under his tongue as he flees.

"What a Sisyphus," laments Art under his breath, swallowing his pill as well.

"He won't get past the hall monitor," chides Mrs. Rex. "That's two of you in detention. I wonder if the rest of you are hiding something, too?"

She looms over the motley crew. Tom, Manny, Rene and Soren are all swallowing hard. Gwif, Plato and Arie have all managed to three-point their magic bullets to Fred, who voraciously washes them down with milk from a half-empty carton. Wig has pulled up an erectile enhancement website on his laptop while Augie has dropped to his knees in prayer.

"Something is definitely awry here," notes Mrs. Rex. "I have seen the looks on some of your faces before but I can't...oh yes. Now I know. Mr. Rex looks like that right after he takes his Vi--"

Mrs. Rex chokes on the bratwurst on which she's been chomping all lunch periods and runs for assistance.


All 12 boys find themselves planted on a bench in Headmaster Socrates's office, with Mrs. Rex recovering in the teacher's lounge.

"Now you may expect me to punish you." articulates the principal. "But I won't. I am only going to ask you a question: Why?"

The dozen innocents look at each other quizzically with no responses.

"Well, maybe your parents will be able to determine who got the bottle in the first place and passed out those pesky pills. Meanwhile, you're all sent home. School is for learning, not lusting."

The Headmaster opens his door only to find the recovered Rex eavesdropping intently.

"Let me guess, Soc." she shrugs. "No punishments, only the good old 'Why?' This place is going to hell in a handbasket."

Socrates ushers the boys out one by one with strategically placed notebooks hiding their various precocities. "I could take out my anger on their curious mistake," he laments, "or I could just call the Oracle Pharmacy and tell them I need my prescription filled 12 days earlier than normal."

"What?" shrieks Mrs. Rex. "They stole the pills from you?"

"It would seem so," laughs Socrates as a disgusted Rex exits the office. "Ahh, youth, corrupted as it is. I don't even know if I need those pills or not. I just take them to make a certain thing go a little better, which as you and Mr. Rex know, makes life a little better, too. Why not?"

All the boys, save maybe Tom and Augie who whip themselves with rulers, smile at the Headmaster's response. Maybe, it seems, he has finally answered his own question.


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