Tales of the land of Oh! — 8

A brief series of tales from the land of Oh!


The search

Most places you may visit on this planet, dear reader, are populated by peoples possessed of varying though workable levels of intelligence, rationality and, to a degree that, sadly, seems to reduce over time at an ever-quickening pace, common-sense.

You may be tempted to think that the five kingdoms, Ah!, Ee!, Aye!, Oh! and Yu!, would be similarly blessed. Would that such were the case. Sadly, the near-opposite is true; not quite opposite, because that would imply an increasing level of common-sense which, frankly, just isn’t so.

Picture the scene: five kings with their wives and retinues scouring the villages, farms and smallholdings within an hour’s walk of the palace, asking everyone they meet whether they had seen God.

Of course, there was no officially-recognised state religion, as none of the kings was able to conceive of a power greater than themselves (except, in certain matters – okay, in all things – their wives and, in one notable case, his mother-in-law and his eldest daughter, or tadpole, as she has been called). Despite that, however, a goodly number of goodly citizens professed having found God, but when challenged to give a description, couldn’t even agree on how many legs he had, and when mention was made of a tail, the devoutly religious picked up their crosses, put bolts in the stocks and threatened to dispatch the regal persons to the prince of darkness whom the peasants were sure their inquisitors served.

“This is getting us nowhere,” King Kannot said to his son, in a voice of sufficient loudness that the rest of the kings and their parties could hear him clearly, “Let us repair to the monastery—”

“I didn’t know it was broken, oh father of mine,” the prince Mite interjected.

“Repair to, not repair. It means adjourn to, go to, that kind of thing. Look it up, if you’re not sure.”

“Can’t. Google doesn’t exist yet.”

“If I may offer, Sires,” Velcro said, “the Goggle Plex library in Ah! contains all the world’s knowledge.”

“Yes it does,” King Hoomey of Ah! said, “my queen will attest to that. We had it built on the ruins of… Yeyoo, my love: on what ruins was the Goggle Plex library built?”

“I don’t know,” Queen Yeyoo replied, “no-one does.”

“No-one? Why ever not?” Mite asked.

“Because, young Sire,” Velcro answered (as everyone else in the royal party, including Hoomey and Yeyoo, was looking around in an increasing state of confusion, and showed no sign of knowing the answer to the prince Mite’s reasonable enquiry), “the gathering of knowledge did not commence until the building, in which the world’s knowledge was to be stored, was completed.”

“But surely, Velcro, the people who built it must have known what was there before.”

“You’d think, wouldn’t you? But the building was so complex and employed so many new and revolutionary methods, that the designers, architects and builders all fell foul of what has become known as the Homer Simpson Effect.”

“What’s that?”

“If I may quote the man himself, ‘Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain.’ The same thing happened to the people working on the Goggle Plex library. By the time they’d absorbed all the information they needed to do their part in the creation and furnishing of the structure, all knowledge of what went before had been obliged to step aside to make room for what Homer would have called the new stuff.”

“Are we going off on a bit of a tangent, here?” the queen asked.

“A tangent?” Kannot exclaimed, “What’s a one of those? Never heard of it.”

“According to the Goggle Plex, it’s the trigonometric function that’s equal to the ratio of the sides (other than the hypoteneuse) opposite and adjacent to an angle in a right-angled triangle,” Queen Yeyoo said.

“Nonsense,” her husband responded, “a tangent is a straight line or plane that touches a curve or curved surface at a point, but if extended doesn’t cross it at that point.”

Exasperated, the queen shouted, “For Dog’s sake! It’s just a completely different line of thought or action. You damned people with your Goggle Plex drive me mad, what with all your looking for complicated answers to simple questions. Occam’s razor, right? The simplest answer is usually the right one.”

“If I may,” King Sandy of Aye! added nerdily, “that’s a common misinterpretation of the principle. It actually says that when presented with competing hypothetical answers to a problem, one should select the one that makes the fewest assumptions.”

“Smart ass!” Kannot said, “Besides, how does that information help us to find my boy’s pet?”

“It doesn’t, but I thought it important to clarify.”

“Good. Done. Let’s away to see if any of the monks have seen God.”

“William of Ockham certainly had, and he was a monk—”

“Shutup, Sandy,” Jules said.

“As well as a philosopher and theologian—”

“Shutup, Sandy,” said everyone (except Sandy).

“Did we have to invite these know-it-alls?” the queen half-whispered to Kannot.

“Sorry, didn’t catch that,” Hoomey said.

“I said, I’m glad we invited you two, with your library, you know it all.”

“That we do, dear lady. That we do.”

“So, husband,” the queen continued, “shall we move on to the monkery?”

“Do I need to remind you who is king, and who, not to put too fine a point on it, isn’t?”

“Of course not, dear. You’re the king, you make all the important decisions, and your word is law in this realm.”

“I’m glad we’ve got that settled.”

“Yes dear, now come on, let’s get going.”

“Of course, my love.”

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