THE LAND OF MATH
A FABLE FOR ALL AGES
Once upon a time in the Land of Math, longer ago than memory, there lived King Reckoning and Queen Numeral. Each was a reigning monarch by right and each ruled with order and sequence. The populace was, by and large, happy with their land and their monarchs.
As time went by, fraternal twin boys were born to the king and queen. After much debate and solemn thought, the monarchs named the twins Plus and Minus and devoutly hoped that the boys would grow into well-rounded men fit to rule. However, the twins developed some differences that made their lives a bit puzzling to their parents. Plus could get along with any number of children, but Minus could only play with two or more. If he should be faced with only one child to play with, he became confused and seemed disoriented. He lacked the life skills he needed to be a one-on-one friend. While their parents recognized that the boys were only fraternal twins and thus would be completely differing individuals, King Reckoning and Queen Numeral wished very much that Minus could have at least one close friend as he so much desired.
Soon the royal pair had other events to think about. Queen Numeral gave birth to a lovely little princess whom they named Arithmetic and whom they loved very much. Not only was she orderly like her parents, she could accommodate to her brothers in their games and she showed Minus how to be content with the company of two or more peers. Arithmetic grew in skills and broadened her horizons until it became apparent that she needed someone to complete her life and take her into another land. This saddened the king and queen, but they realized that they had done all they could for their daughter and yet she needed a fuller life.
An edict went out from the King and Queen that their lovely daughter Arithmetic needed a husband. In order to find a suitor for her, King Reckoning himself went in search of a worthy person. He and his entourage traveled the length and breadth of the land, but they were unsuccessful in their quest. One of the kings they met in their journey told them of a land called Arabia, in which, it was said, a suitor for Arithmetic might be found. The journey to Arabia would be long and difficult, but King Reckoning decided to go back to Math and prepare for such a journey. Queen Numeral and her coterie accompanied the king and off they went.
Much to their delight and surprise, a young man who seemed suitable in every way made his way to the monarchs at their first stop in the new land. He was personable, intelligent, clever, and astounded the king and queen with his knowledge of the land of Math. He declared, when asked, that he would be happy to come to Math and marry Arithmetic, sight unseen. He had heard of her orderliness and versatility and was sure he and she would make just and reasonable rulers. His name was Zero.
The king and queen were so impressed with the young man that they did not even ask him for his genealogy or a physical or mental examination. They were charmed by his manner and assurance. When Princess Arithmetic saw him, she immediately loved him and said she would marry him. Wedding plans began at once.
The wedding was in keeping with the stateliness of Math and its citizens. It was cheerfully attended by all. The parties given for the happy couple’s nuptials are still being talked about by those inhabitants of Math who are alive today.
However, on their wedding night, the princess discovered a blemish on her new husband’s body, a sizeable mole under his left arm. It was quite a large mole and it seemed sinister in a way she couldn’t understand. In the heat of the moment, though, she forgot to ask Zero about the dark mole until they awoke the next morning. He was unwilling to talk about the blemish at first, but she assured him it had nothing to do with her feelings for him and she was sure she could accept it if she just knew what kind of mole it was.
After days of beseeching him, she was rewarded with his explanation. He was, in effect, a Siamese twin to a sibling that never developed beyond a rudimentary stage and yet who was capable of ideation and communication with his brother Zero. “My parents realized that he is a person so they named him at the same time they named me. His name is Infinity. I hope that you can love and respect him as you do me. Everywhere I go, he goes. He is my mirror opposite and I cannot exist without him Do you think you can live with both of us?”
Princess Arithmetic was saddened, but she said, “Will your twin make any difference in the children we may have?”
“DNA is perplexing stuff. I don’t know how our genes will play out.”
“I love you so much that I am willing to live my life with you and your twin, whatever may happen.”
Arithmetic found out that Zero had the seemingly magic ability to show Minus how to play with only one friend at a time. Zero introduced him to other children who came from a different part of the country and who looked different, but only externally. They were the same integral person inside. Their difference allowed Minus to bond with them and to visit the enclave of Negative Numbers, where he added to the lore and knowledge of the Land of Math. He brought the inhabitants of the neighborhood with him as he and Plus traveled about to learn the layout and the ways of their people.
The Land of Math rejoiced when the princess and her consort gave birth to their triplets, Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry. As far as anyone could tell, all three were exceedingly clever and Infinity had no deterrent influence on their lives or abilities. Because of the royal family in the Land of Math, life was enriched, buildings were built, machines were designed, medicine was practiced, and new inventions came into being. The whole world was changed as the younger couple took over the realm.
Princess Algebra, Prince Geometry, and Prince Trigonometry grew up, married, and had amazing children and grandchildren, among them Physics, Geology, and the boy/girl twins, Chemistry and Biology. Generation succeeded generation in the royal family, giving birth to Quantum Mechanics and The Theory of Everything, and a-near-to-infinite set of offspring born to their son Physics, who had run away from home and married Psyche who gave us Intuition, the child of her heart.
And so the Land of Math continues to be inhabited by the descendants of Reckoning and Numeral, who rule with order and sequence.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.