In memory of Bertrand Russell (1872–1970)
“Let me tell you the story of the teapot revolving around the Sun. As you can imagine, this story is not about an ordinary teapot but rather about a cosmic object that humans used to hold sacred.
Thousands of years before the invention of the telescope, a traveler contemplated the sky from the top of a mountain, and in his solitude, he started writing a recipe book. In it, he drew an imagined teapot revolving around the Sun in an elliptical orbit and wrote down four principles of tea drinking as well as various tea recipes. When he was finished, he descended the mountain and showed the book to his people, who were severely suffering from thirst – from their first cry in infancy to their dry dying breath. Struck by what they saw, they copied the recipe book to spread its wisdom of making tea to the world. This was the dawn of the era of Teapotism, in which the traveler was referred to as ‘the founder’ and every man, woman, and child had to obey the four principles:
- Thou shalt have no other drinking vessels than teapots and teacups.
- Thou shalt not consume other beverages than tea.
- Thou shalt not follow other tea recipes than those listed in this book.
- Six days shalt thou work, but on the seventh day, thou shalt rest and drink tea.
Three main versions of the recipe book spread among Teapotists. Although each of them contained the same four principles as written down by the founder, they used different recipes and different colors for the teapot: In the first version, the teapot was blue, in the second purple, and in the third green. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you much about all the influential teamakers and recipe writers from the blue, purple, and green traditions of Teapotism because most historical records were destroyed in the year 2530, as some of you may already have learned in another class. Today, everything I am going to tell you is simply attributed to the founder.”
“Yes? Do you have a question?”
“Did the Apocalypse destroy the records?”
“Yes, that is how the event is sometimes referred to. Personally, I prefer another term, but we will get to that later. First, let me tell you more about the merciless founder of Teapotism.
One of the earliest actions that is attributed to him was the destruction of two cities known as Latte and Espresso, whose inhabitants were, as you can probably guess, coffee drinkers. Before he destroyed them, the founder had agreed to send two messengers to Latte to search for tea drinkers; had he found at least ten, he would have spared the city. However, his messengers only found one tea drinker, who greeted them on the street and invited them to his place. When a mob of coffee drinkers surrounded the house, banging against the door and calling for the tea-drinking outsiders to go away, the man offered them a deal – he would let them rape his young daughters in exchange for them leaving his guests alone –, but they refused, since they merely wanted the messengers of Teapotism to leave Latte and never return. Eventually, the tea drinker, his daughters, and the two messengers had to run for their lives before the founder’s catapults started sending burning rocks down on Latte and Espresso, destroying both cities and killing every human and non-human animal who lived in them.
Another action that is attributed to the founder was the sacrifice of his only son to the teapot. One night, he dreamed of the teapot flying down to the surface of the Earth and pouring hot tea on his son’s head until he died from his burnings. The next morning, he rose early, saddled his donkey, and took his son to an altar to fulfil what he believed was the teapot’s command: He took a pot and poured hot tea on his son’s head until he died from his burnings.
Rather unsurprisingly, the founder’s wife decided to leave Teapotism when she learned about what her husband had done to their son; consequently, she was stoned to death. To prevent similar acts of treason, the founder required his later wives to wear tea towels that covered their bodies and thus marked them as his property. His youngest wife was known to often step on her tea towel and slip on it; it was simply too long for a six-year-old.
One last event I will tell you about is the founder’s decision on the fate of a female Teapotist who had broken the third principle: She had followed an unknown tea recipe that was not written down in any book. The founder, relaxing on the ground and drawing tea leaves in the sand in a temporary state of inner peace, told the woman’s accusers: ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her’. Most accusers left, but a small group of them had a clear conscience; they were convinced that they had never disobeyed any of the principles, so they started gathering stones.”
“When will we learn about the super space telescope?”
“Oh yes – well, let us cut to the chase and jump ahead a few thousand years. The rise of science enabled humanity to develop telescopes to look for stars, planets, and the teapot. Even though no telescope was powerful enough to reveal such a tiny object, the teapot continued to be worshipped by a decreasing number of blue, purple, and green Teapotists, whose faith always seemed puzzling and nonsensical to me. But in 2526, just four years before the Apocalypse, as some of you may call the event, we achieved a technological breakthrough: the super space telescope.”
“Mr. Russell? Is it true that you built the super space telescope?”
“Precisely, my team and I were responsible for designing some its most crucial parts. And when we launched it, we made the most astonishing discovery of all time: Somewhere in the vast emptiness of our solar system, revolving around the Sun in an orbit between Earth and Mars, and only visible to the most powerful telescope ever constructed, there is indeed a cosmic teapot!
However, over the next four years, the scientific proof of the teapot’s existence sparked fights among colleagues, friends, family members, lovers, and nations, leading to the formation of two opposing superpowers. One side proclaimed a victory for science and argued that we should not worship but rather investigate the cosmic teapot. The other side increasingly worshipped the teapot and wanted the four principles of Teapotism as written down by the founder thousands of years ago to govern all of humanity. I sympathized with the former side and my wife with the latter; we argued fiercely about what to do, until both superpowers built weapons of mass destruction to end the conflict once and for all.
My wife and I were among the lucky people who managed to flee to Mars in 2530 before it was too late. You cannot begin to imagine how grateful I am that we were welcomed here and that I have the privilege of teaching you today.
I will never forget the day we learned that both superpowers had fired their weapons at the same time. The Sun had just risen behind the Martian dunes when we left the refugee camp to witness the End of Earth. Holding hands, my wife and I were blinded by the blazing flash of light that destroyed our home planet and the super space telescope. Embracing and comforting each other, we swore that we would never even think of a divorce – not despite but because of our disagreement.”
“Mr. Russell? I have a question!”
“The teapot revolving around the Sun – is it blue, purple, or green?”