What It Is
(Singularities, Multiple Universes, and
Christopher Hitchens)


“Hmm,” said Baby Mousey Bumpkin
Idly munching on a tidbit,
“The question that occurs to me...
The central question... is what is it?

“Brilliant!” cried Mama Mousey, “Brilliant!
Your central question is exquisite.
All Mousedom breathlessly awaits
The final answer to what is it?

Or another way to put it,
Perhaps a little bit more fit, is,
To a knowledge-hungry Mouseland,
Can anybody say what it is?

And more to this,” said Mama Mousey,
“Watch your tenses here because
Whatever it is always will be.
The question isn’t what it was.

And over time, though many mouses
Have given what it is a name,
The names all fail and go on changing,
But what it is remains the same.”

“Hmm,” thought Baby Mousey Bumpkin
Still idly munching on his tidbit,
“I only meant this thing I’m nibbling
When I asked Mama Mouse, ‘What is it?’

But it seems she’s off and running.
The only way to make her quit is
Just to listen till she tells us...
As she surely will... what it is.

Then Mama, dear,” said Baby Bumpkin,
“You’ve summarized the problem, so...
Teach us finally what it is.
Tell us what we long to know.”

Said Mama Mouse, “We must use logic
And rodent-reason for the task.
I mean, of course, SocRATic method.
You answer questions, and I’ll ask.

So question one: In all Existence,
What’s the smallest thing you know?
The thing so small in all of Being
That nothing smaller than... could go.”

“Strangely stated, Moms,” said Bumpkin.
“This thing I’m nibbling on is small.
It’s a mustard seed, I’m guessing.
Could it be tiniest of all?”

“Good answer, dear,” said Mama Mousey,
“We’ll go with mustard seed for small.
Now the second question follows:
What’s the largest thing of all.”

“The biggest thing? In all of Mouseland?”
Said Baby Mousey. “I’m guessing CAT!
The one you showed us through the mouse hole,
There’s NOTHING bigger, Mom, than THAT!”

“CAT? Of course! Good answer, Sweetie.
Now one more question and we’re done.
In all the Mousey Universe around us,
Who’s the smartest mousey, son?”

“You can’t fool me!” said Mousey Bumpkin.
“I can answer that one too.
It’s no secret here in Mouseland
There’s NOTHING smarter, Mom, than YOU!”

“So,” said Mama Mouse, “there’s NOTHING
Smaller than a mustard seed,
NOTHING big as Cat, and NOTHING
Smart as me. We’re all agreed.

Then the answer to what is it
When there’s NOTHING it can be...
Because we can name all the others...
Must be NOTHING, don’t you see?

That’s why no one’s ever named it,
No one, no time, no place, nowhere.
NOTHING is Logic’s only answer
Because there’s simply NOTHING there.”

“But Mama, if your logic’s perfect
And NO THING’s smarter than a mouse,
Still I can imagine something smarter
And even name it: More-than-mouse.”

Then Mama Mouse began to sputter.
She gasped a gasp and croaked a croak.
SocRATic method couldn’t help her.
She really had begun to choke!

But Baby Bumpkin sprang to save her
And acting with deliberate speed
Skillfully applied the Heimlich!
And out popped HALF a mustard seed.

Then a huge eye peered in the mouse hole.
All the mouses were agog.
It was the CAT who said, “Excuse me.
You’re wrong. The largest thing is DOG!”

Moral: so what is it when what it is
We can’t name or know or teach?
But/or/so/and/then a mystery?
Far surpassing Logic’s reach?

Could there be a hitch in Logic
When it comes up against the wall
Of all that’s knowable to mice
Or men about the ALL?

And if beyond that wall there’s NOTHING,
Just shoot me! For the large and small
Are only FACTS, not human TRUTHS
Which still reside in Fancy’s call.

Beyond that wall, that Factual barrier,
Our vaunted Logic cannot see.
Only the questing human Soul
May touch the mystery.

And when I leave these FACTS forever,
Even Christopher and I
May sit and sip a scotch together
In the unnamed by and by.