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It so happened that I was sat in the sun with a book,
and just as I was about to nod off, a little voice called out:
"Excuse me, what is this for?"
A small ant had crawled across the page of my book, and was now sat staring up at me.
"What?" I said.
"Excuse me," the ant said, "what is this for?"
"What is what for?" I said.
"This great black and white expanse I'm standing on now," it tapped the book with a little black leg.
"Look," I said, "you wouldn't understand even if I explained it to you."
"That might be so," the ant said, "but though I am very small, I am also very curious,
and I don't want to turn to dust having known nothing at all.
So, if you would, please – what is this for?"
He stood up on his two back legs, eagerly awaiting my answer,
and his antennae stood to attention most respectfully. I said:
*Sigh* "It's like this: you're standing on a page. Pages are made from trees, we put lots of them together and call it a book."
"What is a book for, then?" the ant said.
"Well, it stores thoughts," I said. "That way, we can transmit them to other people very far away."
"How?" the ant said.
"Now, look, this isn't the time or place," I said, a little too firmly.
The ant bowed his tiny head, and his antennae wilted.
I said softly: "Look, you see those little black squiggles –
excuse me; to you, very big black squiggles about you on the page?"
The ant nodded.
"Those are words and numbers."
"They don't look like words and numbers," the ant said.
"They represent them," I said.
"Hmm," the ant said and thought about this a while.
I said: "Do you understand?"
The ant said: "Not really. You were right. It's beyond me. But though I'll never be as clever as you animals,
I'm at least a little cleverer than I was a moment ago. So thank you for that."
"You're welcome", I said.
"Well, good luck on being a thing in the world," the ant said.
"Good luck to you, too," I said.
The little ant made off on his way and disappeared into the grass.
I read to the end of my page, but could not forget the little ant.
Eventually, I looked up from the book – to the trees, to the mountain, to the sky.
The moon was climbing up for evening, birds were migrating in the distance.
I called out: "Excuse me, what is this for?"
"What?" came a booming voice above.
"This great green and blue sphere I'm standing on now,"
I patted the ground with my foot,
"What is all this for?"
"Look," the voice said, "you wouldn't understand even if I explained it to you."
"That might be so," I shouted, "but though I am very small, I am also very curious,
and I don't want to turn to dust having known nothing at all.
So, if you would, please – what is all this for?"
And the voice said:
*Sigh*
"It's like this..."