After I wrote Ordering the flood someone wrote “Encore encore.” I didn’t even pay them to do it. Instead I wrote the following words of wisdom.
It’s so refreshing to see young folks eager to receive the wisdom that we old timers have to impart. It is young folks, you know. People with experience know better. Or, as my nearest and dearest would say, “Don’t encourage him.”
I suppose this would be a good time to clear up some of those stories about the tower of Babel. This was quite a while ago back when folks didn’t realize that they were all speaking different languages. As you might imagine it made for all sorts of confusion and for some embarrassing social situations. For example one day I was in a restaurant looking for something to eat. I was powerful hungry for some Chinese food, which was a real problem because we hadn’t invented China yet. So I asks the waitress, “Moo-goo-gai-pan?” She thought I was making an improper sexual proposal. She wasn’t bad looking and she seemed willing, but her daddy was nearby. We hadn’t invented shotguns yet but he had one anyway, so I figured that it was a good time to go hungry.
Once folks caught on that we were all speaking different languages they decided that something had to be done and that I was just the man to take care of it. Folks in those days had faith in me; that’s just another one of those things that used to be better in the good old days. Of course I hadn’t a clue as to what to do about the problem but that didn’t bother me, ’cause I knew just the person who had the answer – El Baba.
El Baba was the smartest fellow I’ve ever known. Actually he was the second smartest but I’m pretty modest so we won’t go into that. I had some difficulty explaining the proposition to him, but he being so smart, he figured out that it had something to do with everybody speaking different languages so he decided to do something about that. What he did was to start the first university. The idea was that the students would have to learn their professor’s language so that they could get good grades.
Now people had tried that before and it hadn’t worked, mostly because the students mostly slept through class. Young folks were much the same then as they are now – after a long night of sex, drugs, and rock and roll a good lecturer will put you right to sleep. El Baba came up with an answer – he invented writing and text books.
I know a lot of people think that I invented writing. No such thing. I’m not one to take credit for somebody else’s invention. El Baba was the man. All I did was to invent reading.
El Baba used to have a lot of trouble with his faculty. He had about forty professors, each with their own notions about how to run things. El Baba told them what to teach and they invented academic freedom. He sacked the lot of them but it didn’t do any good. The next bunch invented tenure. The story of his troubles has gotten muddled over the years; the last version I heard was called Ali Baba and the forty thieves.
His university came to a bad end. We had a shortage of ivory in those days so El Baba built his university tower out of clay tablets. He had a large surplus of them because the janitor used them for working out the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. He (the janitor) was using the tablets for scratch calculations. El Baba couldn’t bake the tablets and turn them into bricks because we hadn’t invented baking yet. Naturally the day came when there was a heavy rain. After a few hours the university tower turned into a mud slide and collapsed into the student parking lot.
The story of El Baba got into the bible, but they got it all mixed up. The university was there to end the confusion of languages; it’s fall didn’t start the confusion. The bible got the part about tower falling but they completely left out the university. They got his name backwards and called him Baba El, but that’s understandable. You see, El Baba wrote left to right. When the Hebrews read his name on a tablet (a Big Chief Tablet if I recall correctly) they naturally read it right to left.
Well, that’s about all I have to say about that. And if you don’t believe me, why you just go out in the Mesopotamian desert and look for a big pile of clay tablets. You check out those clay tablets and look for the theory of relativity. And when you find it you’ll know I was telling you nothing but the truth.
This page was last updated October 1, 2007.