The Magic of Repetition

     There is some magical cognitive process that happens when a text is presented to a reader--it allows its author to see the text in that reader's eyes, or rather, in what the writer presumes to be that other person's eyes.  The difference between newness and triteness is based on the existence of repetition.  Most readers avoid triteness by simply not reading the same thing twice.  However, authors must often reread the same thing many, many times.  It takes a very long time for one's own words to become trite--Subjectivity and inordinate pride will always be a problem in constructive criticism.  My favorite excuse is that I will never be able to see my writings in any but the brightest light.  Even when I read my book or this blog in what I presume to be another reader's eyes, I will always be enchanted by my own writing.  But there is a different kind of realization one achieves when presenting every tweaked variation of an iconic storyline to a different reader each time--the anonymous internet reader who is presumably identical to every other internet reader.  The repetitious presentation is much like the efforts of revision, but the effect is very different.  Revision itself is often tedious and aggravating.  Repetitious presentation gets boring to the same reader, because most readers seek to experience something different in order to believe they are experiencing something new.  And so they become bored.  But I didn't get bored--at least not right away, and not completely.

    But it wasn't supposed to be dependent on the success of its entertainment value to me.  I was writing the story for a different reader with each new entry, and it was a new storyline to that reader, and the quote-unquote "Magic of Repetition" was losing its charm to me.  Or perhaps it was teaching me a different lesson than it was teaching its readers.  Each reader of each new entry was experiencing the comical magic of discovering the failure to dismiss Solipsism afresh, and the Stoic Cat's disrespect for the Cartoon Dog's stupefied wisdom always caught them off-guard, enchanting them with a new-found appreciation for the old saying that laughter is the best medicine.  But what was it teaching me?  As anyone who has read the novella This and That in my book Mangled Doves, I am capable of story-telling and narration.  But one thing I have always had to remind myself:  What is new to somebody who has never experienced it before is repetition to somebody who has.  Somebody once told me that writing is not at all like performance art, and one should never approach it as such, except to turn it into a game or a spectacle.  Performance art is fresh because it is an event which may have been rehearsed, but is yet new because its performance is a unique event from its rehearsal--and most importantly, the event happens whether an observer experiences it or not.  But writing is different:  Though the event of experiencing this new expression is new to the observer just like performance art and the performing of it is unique in its difference from the rehearsal of it, yet, the event does not happen to the observer until the observer chooses to experience it.

    The first time that the Stoic Cat and Cartoon Dog appeared was in the question, "Prove something other than your own mind?"  The Asker qualified his question with, "Prove that anything exists outside your own mind, or that anything continues to exist once your mind ceases to exist."  My answer appeared to be completely unrelated to the question, but its readers scoffed because it failed to dismiss Solipsism.  In fact, I knew at the offset that it would fail--Solipsism cannot be disproved.  In one decisive moment, the befriending of a tired old pair of stock characters was cemented.  The Stoic Cat and Cartoon Dog repeatedly failed to perform the Famous Desk Test for the next year and a half, written from scratch each time, with different details, alongside occasionally-appearing different supporting characters, and always the same result: One or the other realizes that smacking the Stoic Cat's paw on the desk and killing him immediately afterward would fail to disprove Solipsism.  Since Solipsism questions were almost as blindly repetitive as Meaning-o-Life questions at Yahoo!Answers, I had no fear of boring my readers with repetition.  So, without further ado, here is the exact text of the original "Famous Desk Test Narrative" (Okay, so maybe I fixed one typo)!  

    "Oboy! is it time for my famous Desk Test?" The Cartoon Dog pulled at the desk by the wall, dragging it out to the center of the room.
    "Nope, they're not going to fall for that anymore." The Stoic Cat, standing square-shouldered, held his paw out against the desk, blocking its continued movement across the floor. "Not since we've proven that the desk itself is a figment of your imagination, and the pain in your hand is merely an extension of that imaginary context."
    The Cartoon Dog dropped its paws and stared stupidly into space. "Aw, gee. That kinda takes the fun outta life." He stumbled towards the door. "Wait, I have an idea!" The Cartoon Dog raced over to the Stoic Cat, grabbing its arm.
    "Hey, what are you doing?"
    The Cartoon Dog hesitated for a moment, and then answered. "Look, if I smack my hand on the desk, then you would say that the desk is a figment of my imagination and not yours, and that the pain in my hand is real only to me because the desk is only real to me, and my interaction with this desk is only real to me, which is why only I feel the pain of having smacked the desk with my hand."
    The Stoic Cat shrugged, "Yes, so?"
    The Cartoon Dog grinned, "Well, if I smack your hand on the desk, and if you feel the pain in your hand, then it will prove that this desk is not a figment of my imagination, since your interaction with this desk results in you having the pain. I cannot imagine you having any pain."
    The Stoic Cat exhaled dismissively and stared upward in exasperation. "You have a dizzying intellect. Go ahead," he continued. "Dazzle me with your brilliance! Baffle me with your--your--oh, whatever you call that stuff in your skull!"
    The Cartoon Dog held the Stoic Cat's paw high over its head and began to explain. "Now, if my smacking your hand on this desk causes you intense pain, please let me know immediately." He hoisted the Cat's paw up a little, preparing to bring it downward rapidly.
    The Stoic Cat suddenly looked downward. "Hey, wait. This would still prove nothing, wouldn't it?"
    The Cartoon Dog paused. "What? Whaddaya mean, prove nothing?"
     "Well," The Stoic Cat explained, "If this desk were a figment of my imagination and not of your imagination, then it is quite likely that you are a figment of my imagination as well, and therefore, your claim of having experienced pain was only my imagination pretending to portray realism."
    The Cartoon Dog scratched its chin thoughtfully. "Hmmm, I never thought of that." He glanced around nervously, pondering the conundrum that had just transfixed his mind.
    The Stoic Cat concluded, "And you are a Cartoon anyway."
    The Cartoon Dog grimaced and snarled quietly, "You keep saying that like it should offend me. I know how to answer this! He grabbed the Cat's paw, reached it up high over his head, and shouted, "I'll smack your paw on this desk, and then I'll strike you dead. If the desk is still here, then it cannot be a figment of your imagination."
    He brought the Cat's paw down on the desk rapidly.

    Another variation of the Famous Desk Test was an effort to combine the Meaning-o-Life question with the Solipsism question.  One Asker who called himself Jigsaw (and used the bloodstained mask from the movie Saw as his avatar) was overly fond of phrasing his questions as a baiting command: "Life has no Meaning because Nothing exists!?"  Most of my fellow Answerers surmised that this was a bored preteen under-achiever who delighted in asking questions which were unanswerable yet provided little more than the unsettling contempt he could rile from sleepless adults who sheepishly believed they could answer any question in order to regain what little sense of authority they could muster from their workdays.  Even the Stoic Cat and Cartoon Dog fell for his pranks.  This was perhaps the first of several times that the appearance of the question in larger bolded letters above the answer was highlighted by the character's awareness of its presence above their heads.

    "Oboy, is it time for my Famous Desk Test?" The Cartoon Dog began dragging the desk away from the wall.
    The Stoic Cat stood perfectly still, shaking slightly. "Mutt, don't. It's a trap!"
    The Cartoon Dog looked up while still pushing at the desk. "You look like you've just seen a ghost. What is wrong?"
    The Stoic Cat pointed up silently.
    The Cartoon Dog shrugged and said, "Yeah, it's an Existence question. Finally, I guessed right. Now, I can really smack your paw on the desk to prove that the desk exists."
    The Stoic Cat stammered, "But this is Jigsaw. He says that Nothing Exists."
    The Cartoon Dog, continuing to push the desk out to the center of the room, scoffed, "Who's he kidding?  Look, when I smack your paw on the desk, you will feel an enormous amount of pain and you will KNOW that the desk exists. However, if you are a solipsist and only you exist, then the desk will be as much a figment of your imagination as I am, and therefore would cause you and only you pain when your paw is smacked on it."
    The Stoic Cat broke his gaze at Jigsaw's bloodstained mask and looked at the Cartoon Dog. "Well, you are just a cartoon. How do we prove that I am not a solipsist?"
    The Cartoon Dog finished centering the desk and walked over to the Stoic Cat. "After I smack your paw on the desk, I will strike you dead." The Cartoon Dog put his arm around the Stoic Cat and led him towards the center of the room. "If the desk is still here after you are dead, then you are not the only consciousness in existence."
    The Stoic Cat looked up fearfully. "But what if you are the Solipsist?"
    The Cartoon Dog stopped and scowled. "Well, you can't strike me dead because as you so impolitely observed, I am just a Cartoon, which means both that I cannot die, and that I do not exist, but you are a Cat which means that you have nine lives, and you exist. So, you get to perform this Test for everyone."
    The Stoic Cat suddenly looked up. "Wait, it says 'meaning' up there! This isn't an existence question, it's a Meaning-o-Life question."
    The Cartoon Dog grabbed the Stoic Cat's arm. "Yeah, Jigsaw has been asking both things at the same time lately. It's like a trick."
    The Stoic Cat resisted. "But that means it's a trap. Don't fall for it!"
    The Cartoon Dog smirked. "So, now you are hoping that I'm smarter than that?"
    The Stoic Cat sheepishly grinned. "Hope springs eternal. After all, I'm smarter than that!"
    The Cartoon Dog let go of the Cat's arm. "Prove it. Do your homework and show me an 'A'!"

    A little-known fact of my not-so-serious academic interjections at Yahoo!Answers is that I typed "The Nope-Master has spoken." as the source of every answer that I posted.  This provided me with two benefits:  A self-created legendary status, and ease of shameless self-promotion.  One popular effect of Yahoo!Answers' game-like environment is that Yahoo account-holders (and probably just anybody)could vote for Best Answer on the questions--Answerers can even vote for themselves.  I often went back on questions I had answered to vote for myself.  When a question goes to Voting status, the Answerer's avatar and name goes away, so that voters were forced to focus on the content of the answers.  It was very easy to vote for myself when I didn't have to actually read the set of answers in order to recognize my own Answers--I only had to look for the source, "The Nope-Master has spoken."

    At the same time that I was making a mockery of the philosophical arena with these stories, I was also answering every posted question which asked "What is the Meaning of Life" with a string of eight numbered paragraphs which I had called "The Nope-Master's Greatest Hits." I never varied the content of this, which often frustrated my fellow Answerers with what they considered a cheating effort.  But as they often got TOSsed (as defined in the Glossary of Mangled Doves) for complaining about the uselessness of answering a question which could easily be searched using Yahoo's built-in Search Engine, I did not.  I fearlessly posted the Nope-Master's Greatest Hits as often as possible because I could Copy'n'Paste it from a recent previous Answer and maintain an online presence with only two minutes at a computer.

   But the Stoic Cat and Cartoon Dog Answers presented such effective silliness that I persistently typed a whole new version each time for over six months.  Recently, in searching for these texts, I have discovered that I would sometimes answer a Solipsism question by simply acknowledging that the concept could not be disproved and added a link to the "Nope-Master's Original Desk Test Narrative."  But I could not help typing new versions of the original story--the line "And you are just a cartoon, after all" just kept inspiring giggles of a whole new world of funny each time I placed it in a different context.  There were several constants that I maintained.  It always had to start with the Cartoon Dog's "Oboy!"  The Stoic Cat always needed to obstruct the desk's movement, while dismissing the Cartoon Dog's excitement about the nature of the question.  Also, despite the mindless banter that the Cartoon Dog spews at the Stoic Cat, he nearly always was the one to speak wisely about the content of the answer.  As for the smacking of the Cat's paw on the desk and striking him dead, the paw-smacking has happened a few times, but the Stoic Cat has only been stricken dead once.

    But after awhile, even I began to get bored with the repetitious sameness of the Stoic Cat and Cartoon Dog's antics and began changing the elements.  In this variation, I decided to present the desk itself as being imaginary, an effect which totally unhinged the narrative for the two equally nonexistent characters.  However, I did still manage to describe the meaning of Solipsism within this variation.

    "Oboy! Is it time for my famous Desk Test?" The Cartoon Dog lunged at the desk by the wall, but passed right through it, slapping on the floor with a loud noise.
    The Stoic Cat guffawed boisterously. "Haw-haw-haw! Har-har-De-Har! That'll teach you to get all excited about your silly desk."
    The Cartoon Dog looked up from the floor. "I don't get it. Why doesn't this hurt?"
    The Stoic Cat stopped laughing and stared in disbelief. "You mean you have no pain from body-slamming the floor?"
    The Cartoon Dog leaned up on one elbow. "No, missing the desk. Why didn't that hurt me? It should have completely unhinged my sense of Reality."
    The Stoic Cat smirked. "Well, maybe that's because you have no Reality. After all, I'm the only one who really exists here."
    The Cartoon Dog sat up, and rested on his forepaws. "But how can that be? You're a talking cat. How cartoonish can you get?"
    The Stoic Cat looked aghast and pointed to himself. "What? Me? You're the cartoon here! If anyone's cartoonish here, it's you by a mile."
    The Cartoon Dog grimaced. "But that doesn't mean that I don't exist. I mean, I enjoy ground sirloin, chewing on shoes and rawhides, playing fetch, urinating on trees . . . how much more real can you get?"
    "But none of that matters," the Stoic Cat argued. "In a solipsist Universe, only one consciousness exists, and all other creatures are figments of that consciousness' imagination."
    The Cartoon Dog, not listening, continued to describe realistic traits of dogness. "I'm a real dog. I poop in grass, I hump people's legs, I bark at strange noises, I eat my own vomit . . . Man what a life!"
    The Stoic Cat grimaced in disgust. "You're a sad, pathetic creature."
    The Cartoon Dog, still ignoring the lack of consensus, concluded, "It just doesn't get any better than this! Don't you wish your were a dog, too?"
    The Stoic Cat waited for the Dog to stop staring off in wonder and responded, "I'm just glad that I don't exist either."
    In another version, I decided to dismiss the events altogether and merely forced the characters to describe the acknowledged elements of the story through a snynopsis.  What was interesting is that this seems to be a complete non-answer, and it really takes careful study to see the answer that it proposes is embedded within the text.  This was another posting which only makes sense if the question is displayed like a banner marquee immediately above the text of the answer: "How do we define ourselves if we're intangible? What do we make of our existence?"

    "Oboy! is it time for my famous Desk Test?" The Cartoon Dog pulled at the desk by the wall, dragging it out to the center of the room.
     "Nope, you silly canine!" The Stoic Cat leaned heavily against the desk, obstructing its further passage towards the center of the room. "This is another one of those Meaning of Life questions."
     The Cartoon Dog looked up, struggling to read the words. "Um, duh...I don't see the word 'meaning' up there. What does that word mean? I...N...T...A...N...G...I...B...L...E...... Inn-Tann-Gee-Bull."
     "It means you can't touch it, it's invisible."
     The Cartoon Dog scratched its forehead ignorantly. "Doesn't that constitute an instance of the Desk Test?"
     "No, you moron! It's about Meaning! Haven't you ever seen Caddyshack? 'Be the ball, Billy! May...Make your future. Na-na-na-na-na-n-an-anaaaaa.'?"
     The Cartoon Dog looked out the window, struggling to think. Suddenly, he brightened up. "Hey, look! Birdies!"
     The Stoic Cat leapt out the window, unthinkingly. "Yaaaish!" With lightning reflexes, he lunged his paw out to grab the windowsill.
     The Cartoon Dog stepped up to the windowsill and looked down. "Do you have a burning sensation in the tendons in your claws?" The Stoic Cat looked up and growled, "Just answer the question! What do you make of your life, you intangible freak of Pen-and-Ink!"
     "I live to smack your paw on a Desk and then strike you dead to prove that you exist. After all, I am just a cartoon!"
     The Cartoon Dog slammed the Window closed. Looking up, he pondered, "I wonder what's on the Nature Channel right now?"

    Here is the text of a one-time effort to utilize the antics of the Stoic Cat and Cartoon Dog while answering a Meaning-o-Life question.  I apologize in advance to my Christian readers.  The Jesus reference is inappropriate, but in its context at Yahoo!Answers, the alternatives (Reacting disdainfully to the requirement to keep religion out of the answer, or flaming in the answer--both of which would earn a TOS) were persistently unexpressive and even more offending to Christian sensibilities.

    The Cartoon Dog dragged the desk over the Stoic Cat's slumbering head eagerly. "Oboy! Is it time for my famous Desk Test?"
     The Stoic Cat shrieked agonizingly. "This isn't a Desk Test Question, you mangy mutt!" He sat up suddenly banging his head on the underside of the Desk. "Ye-ow! This is a Meaning of Life Question. Jesus, you're an idiot!"
     Jesus looked down from the rafters scornfully. "I heard that!"
     The Stoic Cat looked out from underneath the Desk, rubbing his head gingerly. "Stay outta this!"
     The Cartoon Dog stood aside helplessly, shaking his head as though trying to clear a fog. "I don't get it."
     The Stoic Cat clambered out from under the Desk and swatted the Cartoon Dog's nose. "This is about the Meaning of Life!"
     The Dog rubbed his nose diffidently. "42?" He turned around walking towards the door. "Never mind that. I've got work to do."
     The Stoic Cat looked at the window. "What are you going to do? Eat your own vomit?"
     The Dog stopped, not turning around. "Why is that wrong? Just because I'm a dog doesn't give you the right to make fun of me."
     The Stoic Cat scowled, "That would be if you were a Cynic, but you're a cartoon." The Cat shifted its weight. "You moron! The old saying about a dog returning to its own vomit is because it doesn't know any better than to follow its blind instincts about the food it ate moments ago, forgetting that it's that very same food which made it vomit."
    The Cartoon Dog silently listened, and thought about the Stoic Cat's lecture.  After a long pause, he retorted, "Yeah, but at least it was warmer the second time!"

    I tried to keep the Stioc Cat and Cartoon Dog secluded from other philosophy topics in my answers at Yahoo!Answers, but there were times when I just couldn't resist surprising a friend who typically didn't ask about Solipsism with a visit from the cognitively myopic duo.  It is much like walking past a broadcast of any of the Tom and Jerry cartoons.  You can't help but stop and watch, then walk away dismissively, non-plussed but nonetheless pleased.  In some cases, the things that I forced these two characters to say about philosophy were not nearly as funny as the fact that I dared to say these things--or forced some nonexistent character to say them.  Here is one about the elusive nature of real knowledge.  If I recall, the question which prompted this response had something in its context about "the more we know, the less we understand."

    "Oboy! Is it time for my famous Desk Test?" The Cartoon Dog began excitedly pushing the Desk away from the wall.
    "Nope!" The Stoic Cat darted in front of the Desk and pushed against it. "Yet again, this isn't an Existence question. This time, it's about knowledge."
    The Cartoon Dog stood up irresolutely. "It's the same thing. How do you KNOW is this desk exists?
    Well, if I smack your paw on it, and you feel pain from the impact, then you will KNOW that the Desk is really there."
    The Stoic Cat stood up sharply. "When you chase cars, have you ever noticed that the faster you run down the street at them, the further away from you they get?"
    The Cartoon Dog gulped solidly, imagining a feigned terror. "Nope, but I do remember that feeling I get in my lower spine when I've reached the end of my leash."
    "You're such a delightful interlocutor."
    The Cartoon Dog pshawed. "Aw, stop being so sophomoric. You know I'm a pushover when you talk like that."
    The Stoic Cat leaned forward. "Have you ever studied Plato's Allegory of the Cave?"
    The Cartoon Dog furrowed his brow. "What a moron! That guy wouldn't know a hole in the ground from a hole in the ground!"
     The Stoic Cat glanced around furtively, and whispered, "You know, they use manacles in the cave."
     The Cartoon Dog chuckled nervously. "I remember those days. Hee-Hee!"

    For anybody who would seek to follow up on this line of study, the "Allegory of the Cave" and "the divided line" both come from Plato's The Republic.  Be sure to check out the famous video by following the link above (one link goes to the wikipedia entry, and the other link goes to Bullhead Entertainment's website featuring the video).  Its voice-over was done by Orson Welles, and the animation is genuine claymation.

    Sometimes, when Answerers at Yahoo!Answers pretended to be Askers, the results were often bewildering and provocative.  Among the most baffling Answerer-Askers was a person named "BOX."  BOX's question were like the logical puzzles one might encounter in a librarian's visit to Alice's Wonderland.  BOX's most unexpected question was "What is what?" and supporting details "What is not that? What is not Love?  What do you know?  What is what?  Thank you."  Oftentimes, the answer being sought was revealed by the conclusive fact that no other answer could be correct.  In this visit by the Stoic Cat and Cartoon Dog, BOX's reply was, "All you had to say was Meno."

     "Oboy!" The Cartoon Dog shouted as he sprinted off to the edge of the room. "Is it time for my Famous Desk Test?" He pulled the desk away from the wall and began to push it towards the center of the room.
     The Stoic Cat stumbled disjectedly across the room. "Ummm......."
     The Cartoon Dog stopped pushing and looked up. "What?"
     The Stoic Cat continued to look upward disjectedly. "Um..."
     The Cartoon Dog stood fully upright and rested its paws on its haunches. "What!?"
     The Stoic Cat pointed upward distractedly. "Um, uh..."
     The Cartoon Dog shoved the Stoic Cat's back, hard. "What!?!?"
     The Stoic Cat, nearly falling over, recovered and pointed up with a straight arm. "What's that?"
     The Cartoon Dog glared upward in exasperation. "That what?"
     The Stoic Cat emphasized the direction he was pointing (at the question). "That what's that?"
     The Cartoon Dog read the question. "I don't understand."
     The Stoic Cat drooped his arms bey his sides. "My point exactly!"
     The Cartoon Dog gazed in wonder. "Um..."
     The Stoic Cat looked over its shoulder. "What?"
     The Cartoon Dog continued to mumble. "Um..."
     The Stoic Cat turned to face the Cartoon Dog. "What!?"
     The Cartoon Dog spoke disjectedly. "What is that?"
     The Stoic Cat waved off the Cartoon Dog. "How should I know?"
     The Cartoon Dog leaned forward across the desk. "But how am I supposed to know what that is not if I do not first know what that is?"
     The Stoic Cat sneered decisively. "Wow! He did study Logic!"
     The Cartoon Dog rested his head on his paw. "What's up with that not-love thing there?"
     The Stoic Cat began cleaning itself in boredom. "Ah, That has as much right to be up there as Love does in this context."
     The Cartoon Dog looked down scornfully. "You keep using that word as if it should confuse me. But it won't work this time."
     The Stoic Cat clawed in the Cartoon Dog's direction. "Ah, what do you know?"
     The Cartoon Dog stood upright, attempting to look academic. "Socrates showed that Real Knowledge is a simple act of remembering by performing tricks in the street with a little boy and a stick."
     The Stoic Cat stood up in alarm. "He did WHAT to a boy in the street with a stick?"
     The Cartoon Dog answered, absent-mindedly. "He performed tricks to show that knowledge is remembering."
     The Stoic Cat scoffed. "Oh, that's right. I read about that somewhere, in a book called Meno."
     The Cartoon Dog looked up again. "So, what is that?"
     The Stoic Cat turned around, confused. "That what?"
     The Cartoon Dog pointed disjectedly (at the question). "That what's that?"
     The Stoic Cat bowed magnanimously. "You're welcome?"
     The Cartoon Dog, still baffled, answered, "To do what?"

    Hector Contreras is a talented pianist and frontman for a Jazz ensemble who frequently visited Yahoo!Answers with thought-provoking questions which seemed clearly answerable and yet were very difficult to explain. Before answering one of his questions, one needed to decide whether the proper answer would fall on the side of absolutism or relativism, Free will or Determinism, religion or science. In other words, one must choose a school of thought from which to answer before attempting to tackle the content involved in the question. While I often sought to answer his questions with my studies of Quantum Mechanics as my referent, I found that the Stoic Cat and Cartoon Dog were far more capable of giving a direct answer to his questions. Since Hector was always very personable with his friends, I needed to ensure that the Stoic Cat and Cartoon Dog extended a courteous greeting to Hector in their answers. On the other hand, these answers show more clearly the promised behavior of the Cartoon Dog's apparent ignorance betrayed by his ability to spout wisdom through a trance-like state of seemingly incoherent ramblings.  This first example is an answer to his question, "How can something be in an illusion state and exist in a reality? Is this not a contradiction in logic?"

     "Oboy! is it time for my famous Desk Test?" The Cartoon Dog pulled at the desk by the wall, dragging it out to the center of the room.
     "Hold on, hold on a second!" The Stoic Cat pushed back on the desk with all its weight. "You can't make fun here! It's our friend, Hector."
     The Cartoon Dog suddenly stood straight and smoothed out its fur. Smiling graciously, he waved politely. "Hello, Hector!"
     The Stoic Cat turned, smiled, winked and then looked over his shoulder at the Cartoon Dog again. "Now, we really need to think this out. Hector deserves a serious Answer!"
     The Cartoon Dog furrowed its brow and struggled to think. The Stoic Cat walked over to the window and shut the curtains, leaving a tiny crack where sunlight could leak in a pinpoint stream of light. He walked back over to the desk and rested his elbow on it, scratching his head in thought.
    After a few moments, the Cartoon Dog winced and threw himself onto the ground, flailing wildly. "Ow! I pulled a muscle!" He fell motionless and closed his eyes.
    The Stoic Cat ran around the desk, leaning down beside the Cartoon Dog. "Are you alright, my friend?  Would you like an aspirin?" After speaking these words, the Stoic Cat looked off in agitation. "Listen to me, a Stoic Cat speaking nice to a Cartoon Dog."
     The Cartoon Dog opened his eyes and glanced over. "I heard that." Then he looked over at the wall. "Hey, look. What's that?"
     The Stoic Cat rushed over to a series of spots on the wall. At first, the spots were appearing randomly, in a foot-wide circular area.
     The Cartoon Dog rose up and strolled over. As they watched, the spots began to approximate shapes, clearly rows within rows in a concentric pattern.
     The Stoic Cat turned to look at the window and followed the trail of sunlight with his eyes towards the markings on the wall. "It's an Airey Pattern!"
     The Cartoon Dog looked up in alarm. "Airey? You mean that guy who plays the organ for Deep Purple nowadays?"
     The Stoic Cat swatted the Dog's nose. "No, you idiot! It's what happens to photons when they pass through a filter following what is assumed to be a straight line. When nobody is looking at them, they become waves and follow all possible paths, which become billions of alternate realities based on the choices made by that one photon. The same thing happens to electrons. When we observe them, they become particles again and the resulting alternative that we observe becomes the one Reality which we pursue into the future. However, the random sequencing of these followings, as it were, after many repetitions by millions of particles, is a target-shaped series of circles, an Airey Pattern."
     The Cartoon Dog's eyes exploded into dishpans, and explosive smoke-clouds burst out if its ears.
     The Stoic Cat shrugged. "I knew that would be a bit much for your feeble dog-brain, but you are just a cartoon, so you'll have no lasting damage."
     "Don't mock me. I am an upstanding member of society." The Cartoon Dog scratched at an itch behind its ear with its hind paw. "Besides, what would Hector think?"
     The Stoic Cat waved a paw upward. "Hector has a mind like a prism. Plain, boring old light goes in, Rainbows stream out!"
     The Cartoon Dog looked up, imagining a person's head with rainbows streaming out of it. "Oooh, pretty!"
The Stoic Cat waited a few moments for the fog to clear.
     The Cartoon Dog shook its head vigorously. "But what does that have to do with Logic?"
     The Stoic Cat scoffed, "Logic has nothing to do with it. The Reality is that the substance which makes Reality is sometimes a non-physical substance. That's kinda illusion-like, except it's the way things are in Physics. So, if Logic has a problem with that, then Logic is just gonna have to adapt to Reality. Look at Parmenides!"
     The Cartoon Dog's head expanded for a quick moment and then collapsed as his brain exploded inside his skull.
     The Stoic Cat shrugged. "I thought as much."

Another Hector question was, "Does the process of Creation really exist? How can nothing become something? or is Everything in a state..?"

     "Oboy!" The Cartoon Dog lumbered across the room and began to drag the desk away from the wall. "Is it time for my Famous Desk Test?"
     The Stoic Cat leaped in front of the the desk and pushed hard against it. "Calm down, you silly canine! This is another Hector question."
     The Cartoon Dog looked up and waved politely. "Hello, Hector!"
     The Stoic Cat turned around and nodded respectfully.
     The Cartoon Dog read the question to himself, scratching himself behind the ear as he thought.
     The Stoic Cat chided the Cartoon Dog. "Heh! Who does he think he's fooling? Creation isn't a process, it's an event!"
     The Cartoon Dog chuckled stupidly. "Yeah, and how can he not know that nothing becoming something is the definition of the event we call Creation?"
     The Stoic Cat stomped on the Cartoon Dog's toe. "Aw, come on! Thales may have claimed that the one stuff of the universe is water because he understood the notion of process but couldn't quite explain it! Our favorite whipping-post of philosophy Parmenides found the notion of process so inexplicable that he developed an insane philosophy just to deny its existence."
     The Cartoon Dog rubbed its toe scornfully. "Hey, I thought Parmenides was funny!"
     The Stoic Cat sneered. "You try to define the notion of process, then."
     The Cartoon Dog grabbed its stomach and grimaced. "Urf!"
     The Stoic Cat stepped away nervously. "Uh-oh! Are you having a Maalox moment? Can I get you a glass of milk?"
     The Cartoon Dog squirmed for a moment, then started to sniff the carpet anxiously.
     The Stoic Cat ran to the door. "Aw, poor puppy. Do you need to go outside?"
     The Cartoon Dog grimaced, grunted, and growled. "Urf! Nope, I'm constipated."
    "Maybe it would help if you ate some grass. Look, there's dandelions growing out there!"
     The Cartoon Dog stood up again, a glazed stare betraying the cranial infarction that befuddled his senses. "Process is a series of events which causes some change to be imposed on some existing object or set of items. Notions of change are independent of the defining principles of process." The Cartoon Dog up-chugged an unused box of Crayons. "Hey, where did those come from? I wonder if they taste like chicken?"
    The Stoic Cat slapped itself on the face. "Yep, complex notions are a real no-brainer to you. It's mere existence that presents a learning curve, isn't it?"
     The Cartoon Dog grinned. "Man, you just don't know how much fun it is to chew on colored paraffin!"

    This answer to the question, "Is Order a prerequisite to Design, or is Design a prerequisite to Order?" was actually one of the earliest texts, and yet it sounds so much more advanced than any of the versions that followed.

    "Oboy! Is it time for my famous Desk Test?" The Cartoon Dog excitedly began to drag the desk away from the wall, eagerly blowing dust clouds from its surface into the air.
    The Stoic Cat braced against the edge of the desk, shielding its eyes from the dust by raising its paws defensively. "Not this time, Bucko!" He pushed against the desk strongly. "This is a semantic trick!"
    The Cartoon Dog lapsed into convulsions and slumped on the floor, flapping spasmodically. "Urf!"
    The Stoic Cat grimaced scornfully. "He always has conniptions over his language skills."
    The Cartoon Dog relaxed and lay on the floor, panting. When his breathing had calmed down enough to talk, he stood up awkwardly. "Whew! That was scary. It sounded like you said that word which triggers my Language Dysfunction."
    The Stoic Cat twirled its whiskers in disinterest. "Oh, how Wittgensteinian."
    The Cartoon Dog's eyes glazed over and his voice became a sonorous drone. "Oh, witty master. You befuddle my senses with your multi-syllabic musings."
    The Stoic Cat suddenly looked askance. "I think he's ill. Do you feel feverish?"
    The Cartoon Dog raised its paw up to its brow, saluting rigidly. "I'm ready for my lesson, sire!"
    The Stoic Cat bent over chuckling furtively, then straightened up with a serious face. "The first part of the question is--"
    The Cartoon Dog began to flop-sweat.
    The Stoic Cat stepped forward suddenly. "The first part of the question is--Do your feet stink when you have strolled through street-puddles with Peanut-Butter-flavored PetroMalt on your paws on a rainy night?"
    The Cartoon Dog stammered, "B-b-b-b-but, sir. Don't you think I'm too st-st-st-stoo-pid to stay in out of the rain?"
    The Stoic Cat grinned insidiously. "Hmmm, you do seem to lack the hydrophobic gene. How about this one? Is Order a prerequisite to Design?"
    The Cartoon Dog guffawed. "Har-har-har-har-harrrr! Har-de-har! Don't you think that I could create a design in randomness by simply repeating its lack of order? If a pattern gets repeated, then design results, regardless of order."
    The Stoic Cat scowled. "You sidestepped that one quite easily, but try it this way."
    The Cartoon Dog braced itself eagerly.
    The Stoic Cat continued, "If you were pack-running with another dog, and he wanted to sniff a pole to identify its mark after you had already decided to mark it, would you--"
    The Cartoon Dog suddenly cupped both his paws over the Stoic Cat's face. "Oooh, master. We're not allowed to talk dirty here!"
    The Stoic Cat struggled to push the Cartoon Dog's paws away from its mouth. After gasping for breath, the Stoic Cat retorted, "Fair enough. Howzabout this? Is Design a prerequisite to Order?"
    The Cartoon Dog scratched its temple and skewed its eyes. "Hmmm...lemmessee..." The Cartoon Dog weighed imaginary objects in its paws while mumbling incoherently.
     The Stoic Cat, taking advantage of the distraction, sprinted off to the closet and returned with a bowling ball. He placed the bowling ball on the center of the desk and then returned to stand in front of the Cartoon Dog.
     The Cartoon Dog looked down at the cat. "Hah! I've got it. Habit! Habit results in order without design." He rested his paw on the desk and leaned his full body weight on it. "Not bad, eh?"
     The Stoic Cat grinned admiringly. "Nothing gets past you, big boy!"

    Here was a rare effort to interpolate religious schisms into questions about the inability to prove that Reality exists. The question was, "If something exists, it can be proven to exist through some non-Metaphysical means, given some arbitrary interval of time--and I do mean absolute proof, comparable to a Mathematically rigorous proof?" It began to be painfully obvious that extreme interpretations of Agnosticism would imply a refusal to acknowledge the existence of observable realities.

       "Oboy, is it time for my Famous Desk Test again?"  The Cartoon Dog began to drag the desk away from the wall.

    The Stoic Cat charged across the room and pushed against the desk fiercely, digging its claws into the carpet to prevent the desk's further advance into the room.  "Nope, you blubbering nincompup!  You won't get away with it this time!  They've gotten so weary of your nincompoopery that they are taking their agnosticism to empirical heights to prove that this desk doesn't exist before you can say "Solipsism is as dead as Schopenhauer!"  They insist that because they cannot prove its existence, this desk doesn't exist, you don't exist, I don't exist, we all don't exist."
   The Cartoon Dog had begun to grow frightened and agitated during the Stoic Cat's tirade, and timidly suggested, "Is that my cue to cheer, 'It'll be Anarchy!'"
   The Stoic Cat shook its head dismissively.  "Tsk, tsk, tsk.  You never did outgrow those 80's movie references, did you?  Well, you are only a cartoon, after all."
   The Cartoon Dog stammered tearfully.  "But, look up there in the question,  It's only asking if something can be proven to exist by some . . . what does that word say?"
   The Stoic Cat looked up at the question and grinned.  "Non-metaphysical.  It means something outside of philosophy."  The Stoic Cat suddenly looked down at the desk and grinned even wider.  "Waittasec!  You Desk Test is non-metaphysical, isn't it?"
   The Cartoon Dog held up a wavering paw.  "Yeah, but look at the details.  It also says 'mathematically rigorous proof.'  Doesn't that mean that a practical experiment won't measure up?"
   The Stoic Cat stopped grinning and grimaced.  "What difference does it make?  If he claims that we don't exist, then surely he would doubt that our desk-smacking is meaningless because nonexistent cartoon characters smacking an imaginary desk is without merit based on our context already being fictional."
   The Cartoon Dog stepped around the desk, baffled.  "But we are Christian imaginary creatures.  To us, Faith is proof.  What's the alternative?  Should we go through life believing that nothing has existence simply because we cannot prove that it exists?  I mean, what's the point of eating if there's no such thing as real food?"
   The Stoic Cat scowled.  "For Agnostics, Doubt is Certainty.  Empiricism rules their lives as surely as Saccharin sweetens their tea, as surely as margarine butters their bread."
   The Cartoon Dog held its head in its paws.  "Stop calling me Shirley."
   The Stoic Cat scoffed, then held out its arm.  "As the Emperor said to Luke, take your Jedi weapon.  Strike me down with it."
   The Cartoon Dog grabbed the Stoic Cat's arm loosely.  "I don't see the point of it."
   The Stoic Cat argued, "Look, you smack my paw on the desk.  It hurts me, you still doubt that you exist, so you strike me dead,  When you and the desk continue to exist after my consciousness has been destroyed, then you look up at the Agnostic who snidely denounces our experiment as being insufficient proof, goes on his way, I wake up one life less but none the wiser, and we go on our merry way."
   The Cartoon Dog stared into empty space. "So why do it?  Why not just look at the Agnostic, accuse him of nonexistence, and go our merry way, happily deluded by our blissful nonexistence?"
   "But if something isn't proven to exist, the Agnostic way is to deny it existence."
   The Cartoon Dog shrugged diffidently.  "Nope, I'd rather be happily deluded than live in denial.  It's a trick I learned from Erasmus."

    In a similar vein, I posted the following text with the question "This is Practical Philosophy? (Now there's a contradiction in terms!)" Instead of being portrayed by the Stoic Cat and Cartoon Dog, I borrowed two well-known characters from a Lewis Carroll novel, the Walrus and the Carpenter. It was the height of sarcasm, but it provoked several appreciative answers--a rarity in the troll-filled crowd at Yahoo!Answers.

The Walrus strolled diffidently along the shoreline. "I wonder if there is a God. I wonder if I would know if there is a God." He stumbled distractedly over a pile of dried crab claws and lost his footing. "I wonder if God would know if there was a God?" He stopped suddenly, holding a flipper as though contemplating a significant point.

The Carpenter skipped along joyfully, kicking up sand with every footstep. "Don't look now, toothy-man! I know where the clams are!"
The Walrus spun around. "I doubt that!"
     The Carpenter smiled. "Are you sure about that? Are you certain?"
     "Oboy," the Walrus exclaimed. "I might be uncertain! Are we going to laugh about this later?"
     The Carpenter snarled goofily. "I would like to laugh about this now, but I am too busy crying about the onions in my eyes."
     The Walrus shrugged. "But what can I do about my uncertainty?"
     The Carpenter tossed a handful of seaweed into the Walrus' face. "Have Faith, my friend! And follow this sage advice."
     The Walrus looked down at the sand. "But I'm not cooking any chicken!"
     The Carpenter waved off the remark and continued. "Death results in Certainty, so portion control is paramount in matters of spirituality!"
     The Walrus blubbered incoherently.
    The Carpenter continued, "Awareness of DOUBT is a confession of the banality of your existence, and defiles all sense of Atheism about you!"
    The Walrus looked up. "Bless you!"
     The Carpenter did a double-take. "What? huh?"
     "I thought you sneezed."
     The Carpenter flew into a rage. "Atheists don't say 'Bless you!' You're infected! You have been scrubbing your brain with one of those grilling steel-bristled brushes again, haven't you? I hope you remembered to use Murphy's Oil Soap this time!"
     The Walrus dove into the water. Rising up for air, he exclaimed, "It's so liberating."
     The Carpenter shouted towards the waves. "You might be on fire!"
     The Walrus shrugged again. "How would I know that?"
     The Man on the Brawny (a Paper Towel brand) packaging glanced over. "Stop looking at me like that!"
     The Carpenter watched bemusedly for a moment, then looked out at the Asker. "Is he an Atheist, or an Agnostic?"

    A few of my readers have made the observation that, so far, the Cartoon Dog has not actually smacked the Stoic Cat's paw on the Desk, or stricken it dead afterward.  Some of those readers have even suggested that my unwillingness to portray those actions betrayed a reluctance to provide proof that Solipsism can be disproved.  I repeat again that it cannot be disproved by logic or by any practical experiment--striking a person dead would only prove that that person is (or was) not the sole consciousness in existence, and the resulting homicide could not be justified in a court of law.  However, in the spirit of recent criminal cases against Twitterites, I will defend the fact that fictional homicide against non-existent characters is a fictional event which cannot be tried in a court of law--and that even if it could be, it is perpetrated by a fictional character who also cannot be tried in a court of law.  [However, I shall utilize this argument to toss in a bit of shameless self-promotion for my book Mangled Doves, in which I have written that Dr. Jeremy Wraxtiorre declared (in the essay, "A Modest Proposal," named after the famous piece of satire written by Jonathon Swift) that when fictional characters die their deaths are therefore fictional.]

    So, without further ado, I give you the surviving examples of actual violence between the Stoic Cat and the Cartoon Dog, as narrated in entries posted at the Yahoo!Answers website.  This first text, which shows the Stoic Cat electrocuting himself, was in response to a question which did not actually contain a question, but was simply an invitation for Answerers to speak freely about any subject they chose.

    The Cartoon Dog raced to and fro excitedly. "Oboy! It's Free Play time!"
    The Stoic Cat shrieked, "Oh, no. We can't have that!" He stepped over to the wall and immediately began to lick the outlets. Zzzzt!
     The Cartoon Dog peed on the rug in his mirthful frenzy.
     The Stoic Cat looked around. "Hey, you're not going to sleep there, are you?"
     Meanwhile, a pair of door-to-door salesmen began walking up the sidewalk.
     Inside, the Cartoon Dog said, "Nope, I sleep in front of the fridge in the hopes that its doors will suddenly spring open and spew food at me."
     "And normal dogs dream of chasing parked cars! Do you have any notion of a 'Spiritual' Heaven?" The Stoic Cat continued to lick the wall outlet. "I can't help it." Zzzzzt! "I just love the taste of electricity."
     The Cartoon Dog dangled from the chandelier, knocking over a lampstand.
     The Stoic Cat looked up nervously through a head full of frizzed hair. Zzzzt! "C'mere! Stick yer tongue on it!"
     The older of the two salesmen has stopped on the stoop and one of them prepared to knock on the door. The younger salesman put his hand on the other salesman's arm and admonished, "Careful, they might be festive."
     The elder salesman shrugged and walked away.

    Here is another of the baffling questions from BOX.  This is the text I had in mind (in which the Cartoon Dog hurls himself out of a window) when I first introduced the Stoic Cat and Cartoon Dog in this blog, but he didn't smack his face on a piano--it was the desk.  The question here was, "How can 'nothing' exist?"  It was in the supporting details that I got my ideas:  "If you close your eyes and see nothing, then does it exist? How is darkness related to this 'nothing'? What is darkness? What is nothing? What is what?  'Knowledge is true opinion.'...Plato."

    "Oboy, is it time for my famous Desk Test?" The Cartoon Dog began dragging the desk away from the wall towards the center of the room.
    The Stoic Cat rushed up against the desk, growling as he pushed in the opposite direction. "Oh, no you don't! They're not that gullible. Besides, this is a 'Nothing' question, not an 'Existence' question."
    The Cartoon Dog looked up. "But I see the word 'exist' up there in the question. And, look, there! In the Details it says, 'does it exist?' That clinches it!" He charged the side of the desk, ramming his full weight into it.
    The Stoic Cat stepped aside unexpectedly, allowing the desk to sail out the window.
    The Cartoon Dog flopped on the floor in the space where the desk had been. "Well, that wasn't very nice. What do we do now?"
    "Nothing, I guess." The Stoic Cat leaned against the wall. "What do you do when you are bored?"
    The Cartoon Dog brightened up. "Sometimes, I like to close my eyes and bash my paws on my closed eyelids. It's like fireworks in my head. What do you like to do?"
    "Sometimes, I like to sit upright in an awkward chair while balancing a piping hot cup of tea on a single claw." The Stoic Cat looked around. "And recite devotions to Carrie Underwood."
    The Cartoon Dog opened its eyes in shock. "You like her?"
    The Stoic Cat looked away and pondered, "What's not to like?"
    The Cartoon Dog leaned back in dismay. "Uh, her voice."
    A fan suddenly popped into the window and exclaimed, "Hey, I like her singing voice!"
    The Cartoon Dog blinked again, and suddenly remembered what he was doing. He closed his eyes and began to bash his paws on his closed eyelids. "Ooh, good one!"
    The Stoic Cat waxed philosophic about the charms of Carrie Underwood. "What was it that Ophelia said to Hamlet at the play? Ah, yes, my dear Miss Underwood. She said that she thought nothing about Hamlet putting his head upon her lap. He was restful, so odd . . . " He looked up at the center of the room. "What are you doing?"
    The Cartoon Dog gasped and wheezed. "I'm dangling from the chandelier so that I can hurl myself out the window. What better way to experience the nothingness of the inside of your eyelids than to be unconscious?" With that, he heaved himself into a stronger swing and released his grip on the chandelier.
    The Stoic Cat watched the Cartoon Dog sail out the window. He leaned over the sill and shouted, "Look out for that desk!"
    The Stoic Cat winced and then looked fearfully downward out the window. "Well, if that doesn't prove that the desk exists, I don't know what does." He walked away from the window. The door suddenly flew open, revealing the Cartoon Dog standing in the hallway, encircled by twittering birds. "Owee!"
    The Stoic Cat rushed forward, grabbing the Cartoon Dog's arm. "You fool! I'm the one who has nine lives. Well, it's a good thing you're a cartoon and don't feel any pain."

    Towards the end of 2009, I was beginning to steer away from Yahoo!Answers, and my stubborn efforts to maintain consistency in the Stoic Cat and Cartoon Dog stories gave way to experimentalism.  This time, the Stoic Cat electrocutes the Cartoon Dog while they are discussing the problems of Solipsism with no permission to perform the Desk Test at all.  Strangely enough, this was the only answer in which I explained the consequences of accepting Solipsism.  The question was, "Can you prove that I'm actually here right now?"

    So, I guess another Stoic Cat and Cartoon Dog story isn't going to fly this time, eh? Okay, so I'll try to stay literal, as literal as literal can be!

    The Cartoon Dog smashed through the roof and flopped on the carpet with a hollow thud. "Urf!"
    The Stoic Cat bounced squarely on its four paws as its claws tore through the carpet fabric, clacking slightly against the foundation slab. "Wipe yourself up off the floor. If we're not going to get away with the Famous Desk Test, then at least we can give a shocking lecture about the problems of solipsism."
    The Cartoon Dog peeled itself off the floor and shook its head groggily. "bluh-bluh-bluh-bluh-bwuh-bwuh-blub-blub… How are we supposed to do that? Everybody's been finding our shtick pretty trite for quite some time now."
    The Stoic Cat scowled. "You should try saying that three times fast with SIX marbles in your mouth. Here, hold these battery cable clamps."
    The Cartoon Dog held its paws out, but then held back. "Wait, how do I know you don't have some stupid trick up your sleeve?"
    The Stoic Cat grinned. "I'm naked!"
    The Cartoon Dog grabbed the clamps decisively. "Okay, okay. Let's get this over with."
    The Stoic Cat turned around, clamped the other end of the battery cables to a battery. "Solipsism is logically indefensible. It is also intractable, irrefutable, and prone to comprehensible fantasy."
    The Cartoon Dog blubbered incoherently. "Blu-blu-blu-bl-uh! Whaddaya mean, fantasy?"
    The Stoic Cat brightened up. "You see, once a solipsist becomes convinced of the primacy of the lone consciousness, all the rules of cooperative existence become unnecessary, the need for worrying for others having actual needs is irrelevant once you have accepted that they don't really exist." The Stoic Cat unplugged one of the cables.
    The Cartoon Dog relaxed and began to gasp for air, wheezing pathetically. "Buh, Buh, But what if it isn't you who is the only consciousness? What if it's me? How could we really know?"
    The Stoic Cat gestured to the battery cables. "Would you really do this to yourself on purpose?"

    Once I had presented such rebellion against my readers' expectations, the door had been opened to all manner of variations within the story.  It wasn't a question of what my readers expected, but rather what I was comfortable with presenting--in other words, my reader expectations as the creator of these texts. This passage attempted to answer the question, "Nothing ends before it begins?" I interpreted it as being about the possibility of reversing chronology by presenting the opening words after the Stoic Cat has whacked the Cartoon Dog in the head with a two-by-four.

    The Stoic Cat sprinted across the room waving a two-by-four around wildly.
    The Cartoon Dog ducked and asked in quick exasperation, "What? What did I do now?"
    The Stoic Cat waved the two-by-four and struck the Cartoon Dog squarely on the side of the head. "You've had this coming for quite some time!"
    The Cartoon Dog was suddenly super-imposed by swirling circles, stars and enringed planets, and fell to the floor. "Ow! You stupid troll!"
    The Stoic Cat dropped the two-by-four and stepped back, like the hero in a horror film suddenly realizing that he has been armed with insufficient weapons. "I expected a louder echo. What is that stuff inside your skull? Adamantium?"
    The Cartoon Dog sat up groggily. Several yellowish birds popped out of his mouth and twittered around beside his head.
    The Stoic Cat drooped and muttered, "Gee, I guess you can't shout 'Oboy' and start pushing the desk away from the wall."
    The Cartoon Dog looked over. "Well, I am just a cartoon after all."
    The Stoic Cat glanced at the Cartoon Dog dejectedly. "Deconstruction doesn't suit you. Let's go back to linear chronology. A semblance of realism suits us better."
    The Cartoon Dog blinked. "Sorry, I was thinking about pizza. Did you say something?"

    Probably the last question that was posted by the Jigsaw character whose avatar was the bloodstained mask from the Saw series of movies, was "Life is Meaningless because Nothing Exists!?!?"--the supplied details possibly reveal why: "You can do whatever you want. You can have sex with dead monkeys.  You can eat feces and drink urine.  It doesn't matter because you don't exist.  Nothing Exists."possibly reveal why. 

    "Oboy! Is it time for my famous Desk Test again?" The Cartoon Dog hurriedly began to push the desk away from the wall towards the center of the room, over tracks in the carpet that have been worn in from many previous passings.
    The Stoic Cat stumbled distractedly into the path of the desk and mumbled, "I don't think that's such a good idea this time!"
    "Why?" The Cartoon Dog looked up and scrutinized the words in the question. "But, look! I see the words 'nothing' and 'exists' in there!" He stooped behind the desk and began pushing again.
    The Stoic Cat pushed back aggressively. "Nope, you cynical mutt! This is Jigsaw's trite attempt to ask the same old nonexistence question with a 'Meaning-o-Life' subtext."
    The Cartoon Dog fiddled with its lower lip. "Um, what's a subtext?"
    The Stoic Cat swatted the Dog's nose. "Never mind that! Let's tackle the Meaning-o-Life issue first, and then we'll investigate the problem of Nonexistence."
    "Gee-whillickers! We have an agenda!" The Cartoon Dog stopped pushing the desk and ran around beside the Stoic Cat. "I love it when we have our priorities straight!"
    The Stoic Cat raised a paw, as if to emphasize a point. "Okay, first you say something meaningless, then I criticize you for being a cartoon, and describe your Own-Vomit-Eating tendencies in a manner that befits the indignity of the Human Condition."
    The Cartoon Dog shoved the Stoic Cat's shoulder. "Aw, man! Why do you keep bringing that up?"
    The Stoic Cat folded its arms and dejectedly looked away.
    The Cartoon Dog looked up at the question again and struggled to read the words. "Look, it says, 'You can do whatever you want,' and then it says--WHAT?"
    The Stoic Cat looked up in alarm. After reading through the opening paragraph, he remarked, "Nah, I like mine squirming."
    The Cartoon Dog quipped, "Well, if you can eat faces and drink, you're in!"
    The Stoic Cat grimaced. "Huh? It doesn't say that! It says--Oooh, yuck!"
    The Cartoon Dog chuckled. "Aren't you glad that I'm a cartoon, now?"
    The Stoic Cat unfolded its arms and smiled decisively. "Okay, now that we've gotten that part out of the way, let's deal with the issue of our nonexistence."
    The Cartoon Dog held up a paw in defiance. "But, wait. We didn't talk about my eating-my-own-vomit tendencies."
    The Stoic Cat stepped around to the side of the desk. "Bah! You've told Jigsaw about them before. It's not like it's news to anyone."
    The Cartoon Dog stepped behind the Stoic Cat and grabbed its arm. "Okay, are you ready?"
    The Stoic Cat braced itself and winced fearfully. "Okay, I'm ready!"
    The Cartoon Dog brought the Stoic Cat's paw down on the desk harshly.
    "YEEEEEE-OOOOWWWWWWWW!" The Stoic Cat shrieked.
    The Cartoon Dog covered its ears for a moment and then remarked, "That wasn't very Stoic."
    The Stoic Cat, grasping its throbbing paw and gasping painfully, wheezed, "Never mind that. Now, strike me dead. If the desk is still there, you have proven that it is not a figment of my imagination."
    The Cartoon Dog grabbed the Stoic Cat by the neck roughly. "Are you sure that's worth dying for?"
    The Stoic Cat gagged. "What? I've got nine lives! We've only done this twice already!"
    The Cartoon Dog shrugged. "But what if the desk is a figment of MY imagination?"
    The Stoic Cat glanced sideways. "You're not that imaginative. Besides, you're a cartoon who doesn't exist, so you cannot have imagined the desk!"
    The Cartoon Dog dropped the Cat's neck and walked away. "You seem too eager to die for this. I feel wrong."

    But now we come to the coup de gras (as defined in the Glossary of Mangled Doves) of the Stoic Cat and Cartoon Dog stories with actual violence in them.  This is the only text in which I actually narrated the Cartoon Dog striking the Stoic Cat dead was in an answer to the question, "Are human beings real or only figments of Something's imagination?"  Strangely enough, this was a Hector question. 

    "Oboy!" The Cartoon Dog ran to the corner of the room and began to push the desk away from the wall towards the center of the room. "Is it time for my Famous Desk Test again?"
    The Stoic Cat leaped from the windowsill and pushed against the desk, chiding through clenched teeth.
    "Oh, no you don't! They're not going to fall for this anymore."
    The Cartoon Dog looked up. "But it says 'real' and 'figments.' It looks like an existence question."
    The Stoic Cat looked up. "Well, yeah. Are you part of something's imagination?"
    The Cartoon Dog scratched its temple with its paw. "I don't know. I am a something. Does that mean that I am a figment of my own imagination?"
    The Stoic Cat sneered. "Well, you are just a cartoon, after all."
    The Cartoon Dog dropped its paws by its side and shrugged. "When are you gonna get tired of saying that?"
    The Stoic Cat chuckled. "When you get tired of reacting to it."
    The Cartoon Dog sat on the side of the desk, explaining the Famous Desk Test while the Stoic Cat fell asleep out of sheer boredom.
    After awhile, the Stoic Cat woke up and wandered over to the window, glancing over its shoulder to make sure the dog was still waxing philosophical about the problems of Solipsism. the Stoic Cat leaned against the open window and interrupted. "Why don't we just do it this time, and see what happens?"
    The Cartoon Dog bounded over to the Cat's side and barked excitedly. "Really? Do you mean it?"
    The Stoic Cat grinned. "Yeah, I'm game." Then he strolled over to the desk, waving his long tail under the Cartoon Dog's nose as he walked.
    "Ah, ah, ah, Hah-TCHOO!"
    The Stoic Cat stood up beside the desk and held out his arm. "Here you go. Don't waste the opportunity."
    The Cartoon Dog grabbed the Stoic Cat's arm and raised it high above his head. "Now, are you sure you don't mind me striking you dead after I do this?"
    The Stoic Cat nodded. "I'll be in so much pain that death will be a sweet release from your shenanigans."
    The Cartoon Dog brought the Stoic Cat's arm down rapidly. SMACK!
    The Cartoon Dog struck the Stoic Cat dead with a clumsy blow to the head, then he watched the Desk incredulously, as though expecting it to disappear. Nothing happened.
    The Stoic Cat's fourth life drifted up from its body and wafted out the window, chuckling at the Cartoon Dog as it left the room. "The look on his face is so worth it!"
    The desk continued to exist. The Cartoon Dog kneeled beside the Stoic Cat and whispered. "Okay, it worked. The Desk is still here. You can wake up into your fifth life now."
    Nothing happened.
    "Hello? Little friend?"
    The Cat's body did not stir. The Cartoon Dog began to droop in sadness. "Stoic Cat?"
    The Stoic Cat leaped up from the floor, pinched the Cartoon Dog's cheek and shouted, "Aren't you a cutie!?"

    After all the experiments, I found that even I could get tired of telling the same story over and over again--even though I still chuckled at it.  But it was a valid exercise, testing subtle variations of the interactions, in vitro, as it were.

    "Oboy, is it time for my famous Desk Test?" The Cartoon Dog began pushing the desk away from the wall towards the center of the room.
    The Stoic Cat darted forward to stand in the path of the desk. "Nope, this isn't an existence question, it's about imagination!"
    The Cartoon Dog clambered noisily over the desk and sprinted out the door into the hallway.
    The Stoic Cat, who had poised himself to lean his bodily weight into the desk, looked at the door in bewilderment. The door swung slowly closed and latched shut, leaving the cat alone in the room. The Cat trudged out into the hall and strolled into the Executive Manager's office, where the Cartoon Dog stood watching.
    The Executive Manager was writing a belligerently hostile email to his floor managers for their apparent inability to obey his newest change in policy. "Why don't they listen to me!?"
    The Cartoon Dog spoke up, helpfully. "They aren't listening to you because you do not exist."
    The Executive Manager looked up at the Cartoon Dog, glaring in rage. "Well, what am I supposed to do to get their attention?"
    The Stoic Cat flinched. "Do you think it would help if you set your hair on fire?"
    The Cartoon Dog chuckled privately and muttered, "Probably not."
    The Executive Manager waved his arm in disgust. "Oh, what does it matter? Solipsism is a fool's game, and it's the only philosophical theory which claims that all reality is in one person's imagination."
    "Yeah, but George Berkeley in 1710 said, 'No physical world exists behind the apparent elementary sense impressions subjected to the reflection of the mind.'"
    The Stoic Cat grimaced, scratched his chin as he thought, and then remarked, "I think I would rather you just smack my paw on the desk and strike me dead."
    The Cartoon Dog nodded and moved towards the door. "It's the only way to be sure."
    The executive Manager waved a pencil in the Stoic Cat's direction and asked in concern, "Wait, what does he mean by that?"
    The Cartoon Dog smirked. "We've been over this before. I'm not sure that you would listen."
    The Executive Manager clucked smugly. "Try me!"
    The Cartoon Dog shifted its weight and began, "Well, if I smack my paw on the desk, if I am a Solipsist, then only I would feel pain from such an impact since the desk is only real to me. However, if I smack the Stoic Cat's paw on the desk, and the pain is real only to the Cat because only the Stoic Cat really exists and I am a figment of the Stoic Cat's imagination, then the desk is only real to the Stoic Cat and my interaction with the desk is only the Stoic Cat's imagination fulfilling its interpretation of reality."
    The Stoic Cat glanced away dismissively. "And you are, after all, just a cartoon."
    The Cartoon Dog coughed, cleared its throat and made a cough-word that sounded like "Litterbox!"
    The Stoic Cat glared angrily and retorted, "Are you threatening me?"
    The Cartoon Dog shrugged and looked back at the Executive Manager. "Anyway, we decided that after smacking the Stoic Cat's paw on the desk, I should strike the Stoic Cat dead. If the desk continued to exist, then the reality of existence has been affirmed."
    The Executive Manager shuffled nervously in his chair. "I'm listening, really."
    The Cartoon Dog raised its ear in alarm.
    The Stoic Cat stepped up. "Unfortunately, we found out that if he smacked my paw on the desk and then struck me dead, then it would only reaffirm the Cartoon's Dog's Solipsistic existence."
    The Executive Manager tapped his pencil on the desk. "So, how many times have you done this desk test?"
    The Cartoon Dog held up its paw and counted on its claws. "Three times."
    The Stoic Cat leaned forward again. "We hope to find a patsy before the ninth time."

 Of course, there was one last question to be answered:  "How can it seem so real if it’s truly not?"

     The Stoic Cat stood up boisterously. "Yup, that's pretty much it. Who wants Ice Cream?"
     The Cartoon Dog scurried out to the edge of the room. "Hey, wait! I'm supposed to start out with the first word!" Scrambling behind the desk, he shouted, "Oboy! Is it time for my famous Desk test?"
     The Stoic Cat scowled and turned to look over his shoulder. "Wouldn't you rather have some Ice Cream?"
     The Cartoon Dog began to push the Desk out towards the center of the room. "Aren't you supposed to block my progress?"
     The Stoic Cat did a double-take. "Yee-urgh! I forgot." The Stoic Cat leaned heavily into the side of the desk. As he pushed, the Stoic Cat asked, "Aren't I supposed to argue with you about the nature of the question we are trying to ask? As if appearing to convince you that smacking your paw or my paw on the desk is insufficient proof of our existence while I am actually just rephrasing the question in order to emulate a sense of propriety?"
     The Cartoon Dog stopped pushing and stood up. "You mean validate our existence in this inquiry into the nature of our non-existence by pretending to represent it? But we are parvenuists--we intentionally do not have that magical sense of 'relatedness.'"
     The Stoic Cat glanced out the window for a moment. "Doesn't that imply that we don't exist?"
     The Cartoon Dog scratched his chin. "Well, this is about the time when you make fun of me for being a cartoon. But does that constitute evidence of my non-existence?"
     The Stoic Cat faked a sneer. "Well, you are just a cartoon, after all."  He looked out the window again. "It just falls flat when you set it up for me."
     The Cartoon Dog stared distantly for a moment, then blinked. "Hey, I have an idea." He turned around to the desk again and raised his paw up over his head.
     The Stoic Cat got a nervous look. "What are you up to?"
     The Cartoon Dog looked over. "This is the answer! If this desk doesn't exist because it's part of the 'ALL REALITY' which is non-existent, then my paw will smack it and have pain because it also doesn't have 'PHYSICAL EXISTENCE."
     The Stoic Cat walked over to the bar. "Wouldn't you rather have some Ice Cream?"
     The Cartoon Dog looked at the desk in wonder. "Wait, this isn't the right way." He looked around nervously. "I'm supposed to smack your paw on the desk, otherwise I would only be proving that I am the only consciousness which really exists and everything in my world is just a figment of my imagination." He slowly lowered his paw, watching it studiously as he brought it down to his side.
     "Yep, you prove nothing useful with that exercise. How about some Ice Cream? It's got milk in it!"
     The Cartoon Dog looked over at the Stoic Cat. "But, if I smack your paw on the desk, then I prove nothing other than your existence, in which case I am just a figment of your imagination pretending to portray realism in order to satisfy your deluded fantasy."
     The Stoic Cat grimaced. "I'm touched that you think so highly of me. Ice Cream? I could get a big spoon and shovel it into your mouth until you get brain-freeze."
     The Cartoon Dog held up one paw, as if to emphasize a point. "However, if I struck you dead after smacking your paw on the desk, and the desk--along with me--continued to exist, then it would prove only that you were not the only consciousness in existence, and anybody--including me--could still be the only consciousness in existence."
    The Stoic Cat tossed the bog spoon across the top of the jug. "Last call for Ice Cream! I could just get an air hose and siphon it into your nostrils . . . "