Post # 509   CONUNDRA (A Quarantine Whimsy)

A period of solitude necessarily, implicit in the present prophylactic practice of quarantine, affords ample undistracted time for free-floating and undisciplined thought. In such a context, the other day, we seemed to perseverate on our early childhood thoughts and experiences. In that antediluvian era, as recalled, “telling a joke,” for some childish reason, meant, to pose a riddle, the intended humor apparently, consisting of the revelation of the solution. The inventory of such “jokes,” however, was necessarily limited, as a result of their familiarized, local repetition; so their utility was usually employed, in the unkind challenge to outsiders, such as newcomers to the neighborhood and strangers.

Many of these problematic riddles, (read, “jokes”) still linger in our long-ago memories: Examples: “Why did the chicken cross the road? (To get to the other side); why do firemen wear red suspenders? (To hold their trousers up); What can you catch, but not throw? (a cold); What month has 28 days? (All of them); What comes but never arrives? (Tomorrow).

One riddle which, seems to persist, universally, for some unknown reason, was actually answered by us in our high school years. The so-called conundrum was: “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” This problem, strange to relate, is still utilized, today to signify unanswerable questions. Truthfully, and with the greatest modesty, we (viz., pliny) easily solved the age-old issue, when a High School sophomore, to earn the offered prize, of two chunky bars (the then contemporary, medium of exchange). We saw that the solution of the traditionally, unsolvable dilemma, was elementary if you are a believer in Darwinian evolution. (The egg came first, which was laid by a creature [bird], one step before the chicken in the evolutionary process). These facts have been set forth in an earlier, pliny blogpost). Understandably, we have been, for many decades, surprised and greatly disappointed, by the felt lack of due recognition and absence of well deserved, tribute, given to our singular break-through.

We presently are beset by an irritatingly, unanswerable question, which we ourselves have posed, regarding the well-known baked item, called the “bagel.” We will attempt to justify the use of the adjective, “irritatingly,” as well as setting forth the difficult question, following a very brief note on the iconic bagel, itself.

The Yiddish word, and item, “bagel,” had their modest origins within the Jewish community of Poland. Wheaten dough is shaped by hand, into the form of a small circle (approximately, medium hand size) boiled and thereafter baked. Bagels, in all their many present iterations, plain, sesame seed, pumpernickel, onion, garlic, and the like, have, universally, become extremely popular and profitable items. Our unsolved issue “revolves” (sorry!) about that delicious product.

Prior to the actual recitation of our bagel conundrum, we would earnestly request the reader to reserve his predictable, reaction, outrage, or immediately, proffered response, to the same. If the solution to this problem, were as simplistic as its statement would, on its face, appear to be, we (who are discerning enough to have finally solved the age-old, chicken-egg, conundrum) would not feel so distressed and frustrated at its elusive answer.

As set forth above, the quintessential bagel is hand-formed into a circle, boiled and then baked. The excruciatingly difficult- perhaps unanswerable, the question relates to its circular configuration, and is an empirical, or factual, one: CAN A BAGEL HAVE A HOLE IN IT? Please, as earnestly requested above, withhold your response, derisive or factual, until we have the opportunity to elucidate.

It is a simple matter to determine whether one’s sock, shirt, shoe, or watering can, has a hole in it. This ultra-simple question can be readily answered by reference to its appearance or performance.

Getting down to the basics, we would describe the simple concept of “hole,” as an opening, tear, space gap, or perhaps, a cavity. In view of the fact that a bagel is circular shaped, i.e., a 360 -degree arc, like all circles is especially identified by the void, occupying the interior of the baked circle. This means that for a bagel to satisfy its mandatory and existential essence, and qualify under applicable definition and established standard, it must be baked in a circle (viz., a baked item, whose essentially, identifying feature is its shape, which, in its intrinsic, circular form, surrounds an interior empty space).

Since it is the fact, that, both empirically, and by universally, established definition, a bagel is circular and contains an empty space, within its wheaten baked circle, can it be correctly said that a bagel has a “hole” in it? Stated otherwise, if membership, as a bagel, in the class of baked goods, requires an empty center, how, in the name of reason, can a legitimately, qualified bagel, be said to contain a hole?

Before we hazard our, personally considered view, on this erudite, philosophical and definitional conundrum, we are duty-bound to refer to the historically, divisive and bitter feelings as between the divergent points of view on the subject. Since the relatively recent creative, and universally, life-enhancing, phenomenon, the bagel, was creatively, inspired and miraculously, effectuated, the contentious “hole” issue, has been compared, in intensity, and time to the 30 Year’s War in Europe, in philosophical and World significance, to the Protestant Reformation, and in its extent of great excitement, to the year the Boston Red Socks, at long last, triumphed over the New York Yankees, in Finley Park. Unfortunately, there have been some street riots and a few general strikes, ignited by the differing and contentious feelings on the issue, but fortunately to date, no deaths.

Based upon our intensive researches, both academic and social, on all sides of the contested issue, the disputants line up as follows. The adherents to the theory that a bagel, defined by its circular shape, has no opportunity, or space for a hole, that the empty center, classically, and by definition “is” what defines it as a bagel; others, beg the question, by arguing that a bagel is a bakery item with a hole already in it; still others, also say, that the open space is a definitional part of the bagel and, sneeringly, that you cannot have a second hole in an empty space.

After much consultation on the issue, with recognized experts in Geometry (Euclidian and Spherical), Trigonometry, Metaphysical Philosophers, Designers and Food experts, and after due consideration and deliberation, we have come to the answer to this obtuse and heavily contested question, and can confidently conclude that the reader will be entirely correct if he chooses to select, any one, of the following answers, to the thorny question: Does a bagel have a hole in it?

  • A Bagel is a “Bagel”, because of the signature hole,
  • You cannot poke a hole in empty space,
  • But you can make one on its baked portion or,
  • Who cares? We have conundrums enough, in dealing with Trump and COVID-19.

Well, we hope that you at least smiled!


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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