The next morning I awoke lying in the same spot Kirk had left me, with a warm blanket around me. Kirk and Kate looked at me in silence as they ate breakfast.
‘How are you feeling today’? Kate asked.
‘Better’ I said.
Kirk was eating a bowl of Wheatflakes and for some reason it reminded me of a puzzle my mathematics teacher had set many years previously. He told us a tale about the man who invented the game of chess to please his powerful King. The King was greatly pleased and said that the architect could take anything he wanted from his kingdom as a reward.
The man thought for a moment then said that all he wanted was for one grain of wheat to be placed on the first square of the chess board and on each subsequent square double the amount of the previous square.
The King laughed at his subject’s foolishness for asking for such an insignificant gift.
Our teacher invited us to guess the number of grains that would be on the last square, any pupil that came up with the correct answer would be excused from their homework for the remainder of the week.
Five Hundred, One thousand, Ten thousand we all shouted over each other as our teacher shook his head and pointed up.
Our teacher then showed us to our astonishment that the last square of the chess board would contain grains of wheat, or more than 9 million trillion grains. More wheat than has ever been cultivated by mankind.
Using the same doubling effect he demonstrated that if he passed a message to one person in the class and if each person that received the message passed the message on to one new person per day, in a little more than a month every single person on the planet would have this message.
He showed us a graph of human population growth. Our population doubling, from one to two to four to eight billion within the last 200 years, or from square 31 to square 34 on the chess board.
Perhaps this population growth is part of the reason there is so much conflict in the world.
‘Is there anything else we can get you, Kirk is going into town?’ Kate asked me, interrupting my thought.
‘Some new clothes. This doesn’t really suit me’ I said pulling at my rough shawl.
‘O-ok I w-w-will g-go g-g-et t-t-them’ Kirk said lifting the keys from the table and headed out the door.
‘I am glad you seem more positive today. I think it is best if you lie low for a while until you recuperate further’ Kate said.
I nodded my head but said nothing. I did not want to lie low. I had had enough of uncertainty, of hiding from people. If I am to live I have to be free, to be with my family.
‘Do you mind if I turn on the television?’ I asked Kate eventually, unnerved by the silence.
‘Sure’ Kate said, unsteadily handing me the remote control across the table.
I flicked channels stopping at a wildlife program about a troop of Bonobo monkeys. I smiled nervously conscious of Kate’s presence as we watched the Banobo copulated repeatedly in seemingly random combinations, for conflict appeasement, affection, social status and stress reduction.
A young banobo watched attentively as his mother fashioned a stick from a twig and dipped it into a termite mound. Greedily gobbling the scattering insects.
The documentary then switched to the Chimpanzee within sight of the Bonobo across the Congo River that had split their and our common ancestor approximately 1.5 million years ago. The Presenter described in hushed detail how a small group of the more aggressive male Chimpanzee quietly ventured into rival Chimpanzee territory silently picking off rival adult male Chimps one by one until eventually they had gained control of the new troop, infanticiding the young to bring the females into season.
I silently wondered if we had really moved far from our primate cousins.
When the program ended I flicked the up arrow on the remote until I came to a news channel. I immediately recognised a familiar face as I read the scrolling headline at the bottom which said Daniel had been arrested with some of the stolen gold and with reports linking him to Clapton House.
‘Do you really believe that there is any hope for humanity with so many evil people in the world?’ I asked.
‘I am not sure there is such a thing as an evil person. We are all fluid, our intentions are good sometimes and bad others.
I was stunned at her answer.
‘You say we are all good and bad but there has to be scales of goodness, people have tried to kill me because I would not do what they wanted. How can you compare you and I or Kirk to these people?’ I asked.
‘I am not comparing anyone.
Everyone comes from a different perspective, their life has an infinite number of unique dimensions which can be factored in to explain why they have a particular view at a given point in time.’
‘What does perspective really means?’ I asked. ‘Surely there still are ultimate truths. One plus one equals two, right is right and wrong is wrong, anything else is just an apology for a deception’ I said impressed with my own insightfulness.
Kate thought for a moment then opened her purse and lifted out some coins and set them on the table that came to 0.90. ‘If you were to offer me a single 1.00 note for this would I be right to take it?’
‘Of course’ I shrugged.
‘If I put another 0.10 should I swap?’
‘Well they are the same, so I guess it depends if you want to have a single note or have some change’ I said impatiently waving my hands as I wondered where these questions were leading.
‘What if you were able to go back in time 1000 years and offer a nomadic person with a spear this choice. Do you think they would choose the coins or the note?’ Kate asked.
‘I guess they might not understand the value of the note and have some use for the metal’ I said.
Kate nodded. ‘The value of an object or our perception of that value is based on our place and time, governed by the rules of the society that we live in. Your reality may not be someone else’s’ Kate said looking at me intently, unsure if I was following her.
‘Unless enough people agree to change the rules’ I said more to myself than Kate.
Kate nodded. ‘It is our acceptance of these rules that make them a reality. Changing the rules creates a new definition of reality.’
‘So are you saying you think any badness we have is mostly a product of our lives?’ I asked.
Kate nodded. ‘We are born with an inbred natural instinct to move towards our mother’s breast. After this our brain is a blank sheet primed to absorb all around us. We rely on others to define our status within the world. If we are taught that we are inferior or superior to others we will tend to believe this. If we see abuse or exploitation we come to see this as the reality of what life is about.
Abuse like a stacked set of dominoes, once set off is projected from one person to the next.
Only when we step outside the prism of our lives and remove ourselves from the chain of negative actions can we reverse its flow. Only by our example, by showing love, by teaching positively the difference between right and wrong, by helping people when they have inevitable challenges in their lives will the cycle be broken.
Then a new chain created by us will be set off.’
As Kate talked she poured the weak tea Kirk had made for her into a plant pot at the side of the table. She had not wanted to offend Kirk. She had obviously done this before as the plant had started to wither from the scolding of hot tea.
I nodded though I was unsure if I agreed with or understand the nuance of all she was saying. I was even less sure tomorrow I would remember the nucleus of what she actually said. For now, I accept we have all laid unique lives which can help to influence or prejudices us but there must be basic right and wrong. A person’s circumstances did not change the rightness of their actions even if it helped explain it.
© Copyright 2016 maidenmu. All rights reserved.
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