Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Lottery of Babel and the Library of Babylon

On every floor of the tower, it is sometimes said, a different language is spoken. once a month, the floor manager buys a ticket for the lottery. if the ticket wins, the language stays the same. otherwise, a new language is chosen, and everyone on that floor must learn it. the chances are rare that the language stays the same for 2 months in a row, let alone a lifetime. however, it is rumoured that sometimes this has happened. Indeed, it is said that there are dizzy heights and possibly sepulchrous depths in the tower where denizens of neighbouring floors have found they spoke the same language as each other for a time. the lottery is administered, of course, by a priesthood, who either understand all the languages, or else have their own universal tongue and each learn the language of a handful of floors. nobody knows which.

few people on each floor are capable of learning a new language every month, and so most people cannot truly understand one another. sometimes, a group get together and try to keep the old tongue alive. these cathars claim too that there are no priests and there is no lottery. they are quickly suppressed.

In the library of babylon, the most sacred works of all religions are kept. the more common books, such as the bible, the torah, the koran, the vedas and so on occur in many versions. the rarer religions, or ones for whom there are few remaining living followers, often have a single copy, or even only a partial segment of the Ur text. the organisation of the library is chaotic. the librarians wanted to organise the text in order of date, but could not agree on whose calendar to employ. then a small group  proposed alphabetizing the entire collection, but were resisted by those who pointed out that there were more ways of writing than there were religions.

the theological experts suggested that there was a tree of religions, not to imply "older" or more "fundamental", but that one could see many similarities in the gods - the indo-european polytheists at least, and the abrahamic religions.

the chief librarian suggested that this was merely the result of errors that crept in during the copying of texts due to the biases of the monks at the time.

as a result, no-one can vouch for the correctness of any of the religious tracts. reform and born-again are thrown together in confusion. there is a ground swell of opinion that the library must be burned, as it represents the ultimate sacrilege. the librarians have all deserted the buildings, which stretch far across the sands to the sea, where the boats full of foreigners are arriving. it will not be long now.

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misery me, there is a floccipaucinihilipilification (*) of chronsynclastic infundibuli in these parts and I must therefore refer you to frank zappa instead, and go home