We return for a second but brief, visit to the small, verdant Village of “Wistful Vista,” located on the far distant, leeward slope of Mt. Mensa. In our earlier visit we lacked sufficient time to render a more complete account of many of its features; one such is the much revered and august, “Committee of The Sagacious.” This elite body is comprised of six wise people of the Village, assigned the challenging responsibility of determining the answer to difficult and pressing questions, arising at meetings of the Village Council or alternatively, posed by any (up to date, taxpaying) villager with Council approval.
Before proceeding further, we would avail ourselves of a brief opportunity to acquaint the reader with that revered, Council- designated, Committee. Both the membership and legal quorum of such judicious villagers was fixed at six, many years ago by the Village Founding Fathers, following seven weeks of heated debate. The Committee’s ordained number, thus forensically determined, is symbolic of the four compass directions, east, west, north, and south, plus two others, the latter two representing the individual’s, bifurcated choice to settle in, or alternatively, decline to reside in the Village of Wistful Vista. The creative and esoteric numerical designation of Members served as an early illustrative, forecast of the canny logic and innate capabilities of the” Committee of the Sagacious.”
It will be eternally and gratefully recalled that it was this same illustrious panel of celebrated savants, that resolved the challenging, grammatical question, as to the proper pluralizing of words like hippopotamus, octopus, platypus, moose, titmouse and even Tony Curtis (Curtii??) The unassailable solution reached, after a period of three full days of intense and concentrated deliberation, was: “Only refer to them one at a time.” The priceless value of their existential analysis, was again soundly confirmed, relative to a previously existing common problem: “ When one accidentally drops a slice of buttered toast, why does it always land on the buttered side? Solution: “Butter the other side.” It is not feasible, as a practical matter, to recount all of the Committee’s vital contributions to the Village (and to mankind), however, it is hoped that the few proffered examples are sufficiently demonstrative of its unique prowess in the exercise of mankind’s unique gift by Evolution, of advanced capability for reason.
We have, at this point, consciously realized our careless omission to describe the prerequisite requirements for membership in the venerable “Committee of the Sagacious,” and would do so, prior to the revelation of the current presenting problem. Because long, pointy, beards stereotypically connote contemplative wisdom, all aspirants for Committee selection by the Village Board, without exception, are to possess long, pointy beards, preferably in some (natural) color, other than grey (no dyeing permitted), and to have attained the age at least 77 years. For esoteric reasons beyond even the remarkable ken of this determinative panel, only one woman has ever qualified for Committee membership, since the time of the incorporation of the Village. Further and extensive study on this issue is scheduled for the coming Spring.
The remainder of the requirements are inarguably, far from draconian, in fact, are few and easy of satisfaction; these are, the regular wearing of leather shoes, abstention from the vocal use of swear words or expletives at meetings, the abstention from visibly chewing tobacco or loudly playing the harmonica, during sessions of Committee. By virtue of a recent ruling, Members are permitted to bring their dog, provided it does not bark, howl, or defecate during debate periods.
We would, at this point in our writing, earnestly request the reader to temporarily withhold and defer his predictable, initial reaction or response, to the revelation of our prevailing question (to be presented, for resolution by the Committee of the Sagacious). On initial examination, the query might appear to be self-evident, tautological, or simply nonsensical; nevertheless, as previously explained, we confidently represent it to be a legitimate inquiry, albeit, possibly too metaphysical and labyrinthine to be properly answered, even by the venerable Committee.
The enigmatic and conceivably unanswerable question (even by the Committee of the Sagacious), is: “Does a bagel have a hole in it? ” (Please restrain all initial responses pending the following proffered definition and analytical features of the subject baked item, popularly known as the “bagel”.)
We have clearly and lucidly advised the Committee of the Sagacious, and we now call to the recollective attention of the reader, that after its pre-boiling and shaping, the bagel is a bakery product, uniquely shaped like the letter ”O,” i.e., a circular, item of bread (with a relatively hard, outer surface, due to the pre-boiling). The complication and the extant and predictably unsolvable question is exacerbated by its fundamental, definitional design, viz., its circular shape, eternally enclosing an empty center. Can such a total conception, have a hole? And if so, where would it be found? Universally, a bakery product is not entitled to the popular designation of bagel, unless it is an oven-baked, relatively narrow sided circle of dough, and universally, by reason of its geometric shape, enclosing an empty center, including which, in its totality, it is entitled to the designation of the name, “bagel”.
Such being empirically the case, the philosophic and metaphysical question, as constituted, is: Can a bagel, or, perhaps, does a bagel, have a hole in it? The villagers were profusely chagrined and “plumb stumped,” and so, with the express permission of the Village Board, applied for, and received, the necessary permission to bring the popularly insomnia- provoking conundrum, before the Wistful Vista, Committee of the Sagacious, to deliberate and publicly declare the anxiously awaited answer.
Within two weeks the Sagacious Committee convened their behind -door, deliberative session at a closed-off meeting room in the Village Center. The currently serving Committee membership consists of Ms. Corona Clef, retired coloratura soprano and currently, freelance hog caller, Chairperson, Mr. Ray Moonshine, wholesale liquor sales, Treasurer, Mr. Sheffield Borden, Jr. Milk distributor, Secretary and Historian, plus two other general members, Rev. Calvin Dimlighter, Churchman, and Mr. Willard McSwindle, real estate developer and equity loan mortgagee.
The following is an unofficial precis of the Committee discussion: Mr. Moonshine felt that “all bagels have an empty center and, in any event do not need a hole”. Ms. Clef: “That remark is neither relevant nor useful. The question is, can a bagel which contains an empty middle space, by definition, have a hole.” Mr. Borden: I say no because you would have to put the hole in the hard circle of dough, breaking its mandatory circular shape. Mr. Swindle, heavily perspiring and visibly frustrated suddenly declared, I am leaving this meeting because it is wastefully engaging in circular reasoning. The good Rev. Dimlighter, who, unfortunately, was hearing- challenged but had inadvertently left his hearing aid at home, also angrily left the meeting, because he erroneously heard the word “circular,” as “secular” and loudly declared: “I will have absolutely no part in secular reasoning.”
The meeting, by prescribed Rule, was adjourned, as lacking a legal quorum, necessitated by the exit of the two Members, unhappily, leaving the presenting question unresolved. Upon leaving Ms. Clef quietly, asked of Mr. McSwindle: “What, in heavens name, are bagels anyway, and what are they used for?”
We are, it appears, by unavoidable empirical necessity, relegated to the reference of the presenting question, to the capable discernment and wisdom of the reader.