Volume II – Ch. I
In the first place it is my opinion that the sky was made to shelter all creation, and that the earth was made so that all things created that were able to stand might have something to stand on. Even those human beings who love argument for the arguing’s sake could surely not deny this fact. Next we may ask to what extent did human effort contribute to the creation of heaven and earth, and the answer is that it contributed nothing. What right, then, do human beings hold to decide that things not of their own creation nevertheless belong to them? Of course the absence of right need not prevent such creatures from making that decision, but surely there can be no possible justification for them prohibiting others from innocent passage in and out of so-called human property. If it be accepted that Mr. So-and-so may set up stakes, fence off sections of this boundless earth, and register that area as his own, what is to prevent such persons from roping off blue sky, from staking claims on heaven, an enclosure of the air?
If natural law permitted proprietorial parceling-out of the land and its sale and purchase at so much the square foot, then it would also permit partition of the air we breathe at so much the cubic unit and its three-dimensional sale. If, however, it is not proper to trade in sky, if enclosure of the empyrean is not regarded as just in natural law, then surely it must follow that all land-ownership is unnatural and irrational.
“And to whom do you think we are indebted for that brilliant logical analysis, which, by its simple explanation of this seeming anomaly, has rescued us forever from the dark abyss of doubt? It was that famous Greek philosopher, the greatest of all scholars since scholarship began, the renowned founder of the Peripatetic School, Aristotle himself. His explanation—I say, Sneaze, please stop flogging that cake-dish and pay a little more attention—may be summarized thus. The prizes awarded at Greek contests were worth more than the performances that earned them, for the prizes were intended not only to stimulate effort but to reward achievement. Consequently, if one were to give a prize for intellectual prowess, for knowledge itself, one would have to find something to award which was more valuable than knowledge. But knowledge already is the rarest gem in the world. The Greeks, unwilling to debase the value of knowledge, piled up chests all crammed with gold to the height of Mount Olympus. They gathered in the wealth of Croesus, and wealth beyond that wealth, but in the end they recognized that the value of knowledge cannot be matched, let alone exceeded. So, masters of reason that they were, they decided that the prize should be nothing at all. From this, Suzuki, I trust you will have learnt that, whatever the color of your money, it is worthless stuff compared with learning. Let us accordingly apply this revealed truth, this fundamental principle, to the particular problem that has arisen today. Surely you’re bound to see that Goldfield’s merely a paper man, a bill of exchange with eyes and a nose scrawled onto it. If I may put it epigrammatically, the man’s no more than an animated banknote. And if he’s money in motion, currency one might say, his daughter’s nothing but a circulating promissory note.
Since I am a truly unusual cat, one born into this world with a mission demanding purely mental activity, I am responsible for safeguarding the inestimable worth of my own rarity. As the proverb says, “The rich man’s son is never seated at the edge of the raised hall.” I, too, am far too precious to be exposed to the danger of a tumble into calamity. If sheer vainglory led me to run such risks, I would not only be inviting personal disaster but flouting the evident will of Heaven. However, even the fiercest tiger, once installed in a zoo, settles down resignedly next to some filthy pig. Even the largest of wild geese, once in the poulterer’s hands, must finish up on the selfsame chopping board as the scrawniest chickling. Consequently, for as long as I consort with ordinary men, I must conduct myself as if I were an ordinary cat. Ordinary cats catch rats. This long but faultless chain of logic leads to but one conclusion. I have finally decided to catch a rat.