September 26, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Cur pullum ad transire via? (Why did the chicken cross the road?)

Not easy to answer, don’t you agree? It’s a simple question on its face, but with so many deep implications. Not a concept to be approached lightly; to be left in the hands of dilettantes or the unqualified. It’s a complex world.

Our society faces many, evermore complicated challenges as the planet warms, the global economy cools, the price of avocados goes up while my credit score goes down. Many tough questions need to be answered. We need educated people to find the solutions to these and other similar problems. 

I am extremely well educated.

Don’t get me wrong, I am also frequently wrong about what I think I know. Or, maybe a better way to put it, I am frequently surprised by all the bothersome facts that fill in the blanks between my knowledge and reality. The first measure of an educated person is, after all, a realization of their limitations. Being “educated” is not synonymous with being “right.”

But, I am well educated.

I was taught Latin and classic Greek by monks. Really, I kid you not, and, no, I am not a side character from an episode of Outlander, season one. I was educated, at least partially, in a monastery, where we got up really early, sang really old chants, and read really old books. Some of the books were so old, there were no audio versions available in iTunes—imagine that. Us monks wore sandals a lot, too. I still like sandals.

My background in Latin has made me at ease in social situations involving professors from Oxford, or conferences celebrating Horace, Virgil, Plutarch, or The Gallic Wars.  I know what “Carpe Diem” means, even if the teenager wearing the T-shirt thinks it’s a reference to a fish. I know what “Caveat Emptor” means. That’s why I never buy clothes online.

My knowledge of Latin also means I can pick up a newspaper in Rome and completely misunderstand what the headlines say, while acting quite sure of myself as I share with my fellow travelers the news that today is the day the priests will be painting stray cats in the Coliseum. I’m pretty sure that was the correct translation.

A background in classical Greek comes in handy as well. Since I know some Greek, I can usually suss out what my doctor intends to do to me. Especially if it involves some “ectomy” or another. And don’t get me started about necrosis, psychosis, or the apocalypse.

Education is critical to human progress. Even when most of the people we educate seem to keep cranking out strange new apps for our way-too-smart phones, we still need to invest in quality education for our children. One or two of them might turn out to be smart enough to get the human race out of the pickle we’re in now. They are our only hope. As an educated person, I know enough to realize that saving humanity is beyond me, and I know…

Cur pullum ad transire via?

You know the answer:

Voluit ad alteram.


Otis Twelve hosts the radio program Early Morning Classics with Otis Twelve on 90.7 KVNO, weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. Visit kvno.org for more information.

This article was printed in the October 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Otis XII

Otis Twelve hosts the radio program Early Morning Classics with Otis Twelve on 90.7 KVNO.