Thursday, September 21, 2006


It takes so long for things to change.  Back in the days of King Arthur’s court, say around the year 500, an ugly hag named Dame Ragnell is said to have saved King Arthur’s life by giving him the answer to a question.  A thug on the road had promised to kill him if he could not provide the correct answer.  The question he must answer was, what do women want?  Although others had said that women wanted jewels, or exciting lovers, Dame Rangel told Arthur that women want to have the power to make decisions.  That, as I say, was somewhere around 500.  A little over 1,400 years later, the British government finally got the message.  In 1929, women were at last permitted to vote in Britain’s House of Lords.  Like I said, some changes take an awfully long time.  But that doesn’t mean they are never going to happen. 


Margaret Atwood started a little story in a radio interview that has stayed with me a long while.  A scientist, she began, places a single cell, an amoeba, in a test tube, knowing that the cell will double in bulk every minute.  She knows that the test tube will be full at midnight, but when will the tube be half full?


Surprising to many, the tube will be half full at one minute to midnight.  More astonishing, this will be true if the tube has been filling for fifty thousand years, and also if the tube is as large as the universe.  Imagine the perplexity of a casual observer who views the tube at, say, five minutes to midnight.  “This thing has been filling for fifty thousand years,” he might say.” There is hardly anything in it.  It will never be full.”


But in only five minutes that tube will have filled completely.  It is hard to tell how quickly things might change. 


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