Book 6. The Family Book (2002)
One plus one equals three
Arithmetic! Mathematics! Of course, there will be no disa-greements over an exact science like that. If Anastasia has taught our son to count, then a conversation on that subject cannot include any contradictions or superiorities. Two times two is always four, in any language at any time. Encouraged by my ‘discovery’, I asked hopefully:
“Volodya, has your Mama been teaching you how to count, add and multiply?”
“Tes, she has, Papa.”
“Good. Where I live there is a science known as mathematics. It is very significant. A lot of things are based on calculations and computations. People have invented a good many devices to make it easier to add, subtract and multiply, and it would be difficult to get along without them today. I brought you one of them — it’s called a calculator.”
I took out a solar-powered Japanese pocket calculator which I had brought, switched it on and showed it to my son.
“You see, Volodya, this little device can do a great deal. You know, for instance, what you get when you multiply two by two?”
“You want me to say ‘four’, do you not, Papa?”
“That’s right, four. But the fact that I want you to say it is not important. That’s just what it is. Two times two is always four. And this little device too can count. Look at the little screen. When I press the ‘2’ button, the screen lights up with the figure ‘2’. Now I press the multiplication sign and then the ‘2’ again. Then I press the ‘equals’ sign to find out what the result will be, and the figure ‘4’ lights up on the screen.
“But this is a very simple arithmetical calculation. This device can count in a way impossible for human beings. For example, 136 times 1,136. I only have to press the ‘equals’ sign and we can find out how much it is.”
“154,496,” Volodya blurted out, ahead of the calculator. After that I began to multiply and divide four-, five- and six-digit numbers, but each time my son beat the electronic calculator. He named the correct figure immediately and without any trace of tension. The competition with the calculator resembled a game, but my son showed no sign of any real interest. He simply named the figures, all the while evidently thinking about something else.
“How do you do that, Volodya?” I asked in amazement. “Who taught you to compute so quickly in your head?”
“I’m not computing, Papa.”
“What d’you mean, you’re not computing? You’re telling me the result, you’re answering the questions.”
“I am simply naming the figures because they are always invariable in a dead dimension.”
“Don’t you mean ‘exact dimension’?”
“You may call it that, but it amounts to the same thing. Figures always come out invariable if you picture time and space as frozen. But time and space are always in motion,
and their movement changes figures, and then calculations become more interesting.”
Volodya went on to name some incredible formulas or ar-ithmetical operations which turned out to be way beyond my comprehension. I only remember that the formula was extremely long — in fact, it really didn’t have an ending. He quite animatedly told me the results of some arithmetical operations, but they invariably turned out to be transitional. Each time after naming a figure, Volodya would add excitedly:
“When interacting with time, this number produces...”
“Hold on there, Volodya,” I interrupted my son. “I don’t understand this ‘dimension’ of yours. One plus one is always two. Look, I’m taking here... one twig.”
I picked up a small twig off the ground and placed it before my son. Then I found another twig, put it beside the first and asked:
“How many twigs?”
“Two,” Volodya replied.
“Exactly — two, and it can’t be anything else, not in anybody’s ‘dimension’.”
“But in the living dimension the calculation is completely different, Papa. I have seen it.”
“What d’you mean, you’ve seen it? The calculation with this other ‘dimension’ — is that something you can show me on your fingers?”
“Yes, I can, Papa.”
He raised his little hand in front of me with his fingers compressed into a fist and began to demonstrate. First he unfolded one finger and said: “Mama”. Then a second finger with the words: ‘Add — Papa — equals...” and, finally, out came a third finger: Me.”
“You see, three fingers. In order for there to be only two, I would have to take one away But I do not want to take away any of these fingers. I want them to be even more, and in a living dimension that is possible.”
Neither did I want any one of the three fingers to be taken away. So long live this other ‘dimension’ — this ‘living dimension, as he puts it. And may the calculation increase. Oh, wow! One plus one equals three! Most extraordinary! Still, the most incomprehensible thing for me remains the book of the taiga with its living letters.