Last night I helped Thing One finish her math homework. She's learning division, but they're still at the stage of using remainders. I had forgotten about remainders until I saw her mark one with a capital R. I miss them. They make more sense now. When did we start to think we could figure everything out, carry something down to the last digit, the 1000th place or the 1000000th place?
It never works. There are always remainders.
"What's zero, really?" she asked, halfway through.
"It's not really a number," I said. "It's an idea."
"What does that mean?"
"It shows absence. It symbolizes what isn't there."
Thing One thought about this for a minute. "Yeah," she said. "Like it's a circle around nothing. Like, 'look, here's nothing!'" She laughed.
I nodded. I thought about the Chudnovsky brothers who built their own computer to calculate pi. When I last read about them, they had calculated out 2 billion places, with still no pattern found, no final number. There has always been something strangely comforting to me about that, about them. The faith it takes to keep going. The fact no end is in sight.
"I like the remainders," I said.
But Thing One had already gone on to the next idea. "Zero is like tomorrow. Like the word tomorrow."
"What?" I said.
"Tomorrow is an idea, too," she said. "So it's like zero. There isn't a real tomorrow. You never get there."
Remember how I was all "Thing One isn't as smart as I was, wah-wah-wah"?
Now? Now I have to DESTROY her!