Steppingstone to the Stars

Steppingstone to the Stars, or How the Zero Was Discovered


In the backwaters of time, before Hammurabi compiled his Code or Akhenaton renounced the Ruling Lord of Thebes, in a region known for its heat and abundance of humankind, a man whose name perhaps will never be pronounced was working hard and long upon a treatise that had come to him from Mesopotamia.

The man was weary from long hours of concentration. The curious numeration of the Sumerians, cuneiform in construction, was

uncommonly hard to decipher; it had taken its toll. He put down his dustboard and repaired to the shade of a mustard tree for a short nap. Sleep came grudgingly; this was not unusual for an old man. Yet it was during this fitful sleep that he dreamt a dream.

In this dream he saw what no man had seen before. It appeared to him as the Eye of God. And this was possessed of a voice, in that it spoke to him:

“I am Nothingness. I can be united to something and only that something remains. I can be taken away in like manner. I am Void, yet, if something is multiplied or divided by Myself, only I shall remain.

In time, learned men will come to say that the Earth, itself, revolves upon Me. I am Emptiness. I will be worshipped as a secret symbol. My name will be whispered and uttered only in select company and darkened rooms.

I am Nothing, it is true, but I am also the steppingstone to the stars and the key to the secrets of the atom. I shall be called an Integer and described as Real. I am Rational. And, most importantly, I am Good.”

Upon awakening, the unknown Hindu set down his dustboard and drew upon it the Eye of God.

Thus did the Zero intrude itself upon the Universe.


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