Sunday, 23 October 2011

Elephant tusks

There is a saying: are there any elephant tusks in a rat's mouth?
The keeper of antiquities in Li-Dong National Museum knows that there are, because the rats in Li-Dong are of an abnormally large size, and there is a great collection of elephant tusks held in the basement of the National Museum.  The rats are often seen to scamper through, their tails coiling behind them like pink whips, carrying elephant tusks in their mouths, though no-one will offer an explanation or venture a guess as to why.  The keeper of antiquities often looks quite cheerful when he says that there are indeed elephant tusks in a rat's mouth.
However, two weeks ago on an inauspicious Monday – he knew it was inauspicious by the way the leaves fell from the beech tree in the garden despite it not being autumn, and because the milk curdled when he poured into his bowl of ├╝ber-bran cereal – he made this reply to a couple of visitors to the museum, and was surprised that they listened to him.
"You see!" said the younger man of the pair.  "You see, I have said many times that to create a parable out of nonsense only infuriates the universe and causes it to give meaning to the nonsense you speak.  It is dangerous, oh gangrenous master!"
"Fool student," said the older of the men, shaking his head slowly from side and side and causing a slow but steady fall of white hairs from his scraggly beard.  "The universe is unconcerned by the infestations that dwell within it, just as you are unconcerned by the symbiotic bacteria that live in your gut.  Yet if the infestation should fail then the larger organism will be taken down by its very absence, so it behooves the larger to consider the smaller in all things.  This means, to my unending sorrow, that I must heed your words, though they speak only the mind of an idiot, and that I must take the time and trouble to correct you."
"Any time you're ready, oh unhealthy one," replied the student.  "I am still waiting on your wisdom from the wedding of the Jojobans, so I trust you will understand that I am not holding my breath that I might hear you more clearly, at least not until you start speaking."
"Child," said the master not unkindly, "you have the wisdom of a monkey who grabs at the reflection of the moon in a woodland pond, not realising that by attempting to seize only the image he declares his fascination with the material above the spiritual.  The wedding of the Jojobans is desirous of a proverb, and such a distillate of wisdom is not something that dribbles daily from the tap–"
"Do your own laundry then," whispered the student, and the master appeared not to hear.
"– and it will necessarily take as long as is necessary.  However, the correction you need is that the universe has no functioning anthropic principle, strong or weak.  It was not put here for you, but it will attempt to accommodate you so long as you do not bend it out of shape too much.
"Is there not a proverb that asks for what the universe was created if not the entertainment of man?"
"There is, but again, you overlook a key point."
"What's that?"
"You assume that you are sufficiently sane to understand the universe."

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