Recall that when
Boozer and Three Eight Ball were camping out in Saw Mill Hollow in
search of Big Foot, Boozer fell down a rabbit hole and found himself
in Wonderland where he met Alice Ann Asbury, the twin sister of A.
A. Asbury. It wasnít long after that that Boozer ďbumpedĒ into Alice
at the Big Wheel in Alderson.
Youíre Alice arenít you? I guess you found your way out of
Yes, but Iím not sure that it all wasnít just a dream.
Same here. I woke up the next morning in my sleeping bag and I donít
know how I got out of Wonderland. However, I do remember you, so
something strange must have happened somewhere between the two of
I guess so. By the way, I spoke with A. A. about a week ago and I am
now positive that he is dead.
I donít understand, if you spoke with him, surely he is alive.
Well, not really. I went to a friend of mine who is a medium and she
was able to put me in touch with A. A.
Come on Alice, you must be kidding.
Well, I didnít believe it either at first, but A. A. told me things
about our childhood that the medium couldnít possibly have known.
O.K. Did he say anything about Wireís teeth?
Yes, he is very disappointed that he let the Freemasons of Alderson
down. As you know, A. A. was killed in Scotland and this put an end
to his search for Wireís teeth. A. A. told me that after his death
he found himself in a strange land, where he met an old man that he
called the Librarian. The Librarian told A. A. that if he could
complete a simple task successfully, then he would tell A. A. where
to find Wireís teeth. Letís have dinner together and Iíll tell you
about the task that A. A. was to complete. Since the story involves
the thoughts of A. A. and since the conversation is between A. A.
and the Librarian, Iíll tell it to you that way.
A. A. MEETS THE
A. A. knew that he was
dead and he didnít know exactly where he was. A. A. also knew that
he had been wandering around for a couple of years since he died,
but this didnít bother him since he was at peace with himself and
quite content. A. A. thought that maybe his magic underwear had
worked and he was on a planet that he had been given to rule. While
A. A. was pondering this and reflecting on his life, he was
approached by a frail old man who appeared to be hundreds if not
thousands of years old. The old man, who had a flowing white beard,
was dressed in a golden robe and he walked with a long staff.
Hello, where am I?
Where you are makes no difference. I know you from past history.
Yes, I know how you were killed in Scotland and that you were on a
quest to find Wireís teeth. After your death, the fact that a clue
to the location of the Treasure of King Solomonís Temple was hidden
in Wireís teeth became known throughout the world. Many countries
and groups of people were interested in his teeth and over the next
200 years many hundreds of expeditions were launched in search of
Wireís teeth. Many searches were launched by The Catholic Church, by
the Freemasons, by the Illuminati, by Scientologists, and by Middle
Eastern Countries, to name just a few. None of the searches were
200 years? But isnít this 2011?
No, you are in a different world now and 200 years have passed since
you died. Itís now early 2211, but you will have no memory of the
passage of time from 2011 until now.
What is your name?
I am called Librarian. I am the keeper of all the books that have
been written in the Universe since the beginning of time. Come with
me and I will show you the library.
At this point the
Librarian waved his hand and, as if by magic, they found themselves
in a very large building. A. A. had never seen as many books before,
and he was stunned that so many books could be collected and held in
one place. A. A. was amazed that the Librarian could point to a book
and it would float off the shelf and slowly settle in his hand.
I have a task for you to do.
Yes, I want you to do a library search for me. If you can complete
it successfully, then I am prepared to tell you where you can find
Wireís teeth. But remember, the task must be carried out exactly,
exactly as instructed with no exceptions.
What kind of search?
Well, the library contains several catalogues each of which is a
list of books and each book on the list tells of a particular search
for Wireís teeth. These books were written over the past two
centuries by various groups who were searching for his teeth. For
example, one of these catalogues is a list of all books in the
library that were written about the searches for Wireís teeth
launched by the Catholic Church from 2011 through 2050. Another
catalogue is a list of books in the library that deal with those
searches conducted by Iran from 2175 through 2200.
You mean each of the catalogues contains nothing else, just a list
Nothing other than a short introduction explaining what the
I see. You want me to make a list of these catalogues for you?
Well, not exactly. Some of the authors of the catalogues decided to
list their own catalogue in the catalogue they compiled.
What do you mean?
The catalogue that lists books that deal with the searches for
Wireís teeth by the Catholic Church from 2011 through 2050 lists
itself. The author, realizing that her catalogue itself was a book
about these searches included its own name in the list.
The catalogue lists itself?
What about the catalogue that gives a list of books dealing with
searches conducted by Iran from 2175 through 2200, does it list
No, it doesnít.
O.K., so what do you want me to do?
I want you write a new catalogue which is a list of all the
catalogues in the library that deal with searches for Wireís teeth
that do not list themselves. Name it the Catalogue of Catalogues
that do not List Themselves, write a short introduction to the
list, bind the list together with the introduction, leave one copy
in the library and bring me a copy. When you have completed this
task successfully, I will tell you where to find Wireís teeth. I
know that you will communicate with your twin sister Alice Ann
sometime in the future through a medium, so if you complete the task
successfully, then you can tell her where to find Wireís teeth.
But how could you know that that I will communicate with Alice in
Oh, I know, donít worry about that.
A. A. was excited
about the task the Librarian had given him, so excited that he
danced a little jig as he began to make a list for his Catalogue
of Catalogues that do not List Themselves. He felt confident
that he could complete such a simple task successfully. If the
Librarianís prediction of the future was correct, he could tell
Alice where to find Wireís teeth and she could pass this information
on to the Freemasons of Alderson. A. A. spent the next year
completing his catalogue of catalogues and when he finished he went
looking for the Liberian. A. A. spotted him sitting on what appeared
to be a small cloud hovering above the ground. A. A. climbed a set
of stairs leading to the cloud, where the Librarian invited him to
take a seat.
Well, Mr. Librarian, Iím finished with the task.
O.K., letís see what youíve got.
Hereís a bound and complete list of all appropriate catalogues in
the library that do not list themselves. As you instructed, I named
it The Catalogue of Catalogues that do not List Themselves.
Also, as instructed, I have written a short introduction and bound
it with the list.
Did you put a copy in the library as I instructed and does your
catalogue list itself?
Yes, I put a copy in the library, and no, my catalogue does not list
Iím sorry, but you have failed to complete the task successfully.
What do you mean? I have done everything exactly as instructed.
Your list is incomplete!
But it is complete. I am sure that I found every catalogue in the
library that lists books dealing with searches for Wireís teeth. My
catalogue of catalogues lists only those catalogues that do not list
themselves and I am sure that my list is complete.
No, itís not, think about it.
A. A. thinks to
himself, this old man is trying to put one over on me. I know that I
finished the task correctly, but I donít want to antagonize him.
Maybe I can convince him later that I am correct.
Well, ok, but I still think that I am correct.
You must reflect on this task and see if you can understand why you
didnít complete it successfully. Since you were unable to complete
the task successfully, I canít tell you where to find Wireís teeth.
However, I will give you your own planet to rule. Good luck to you.
As A. A. was about to
leave the Librarian, he turned and spoke again.
Does the task present a trick problem or is it some kind of paradox?
Itís a paradox, a very fundamental one.
A. A. was disappointed
and he still didnít understand why he hadnít completed the task
Back at the Big Wheel
Alice and Boozer continue their conversation.
Remember that I told you that I spoke with A. A. about a week ago;
well, he also told me that he was unable to complete his task
successfully. The Librarian didnít give him any clues as to how it
could be completed, but the Librarian did tell him that it was a
But itís 2211 where A. A. is, so how were you able to speak with him
since itís only 2011 here?
Well, I donít understand that either. It must be some kind of
Einsteinian time warp thing. Donít you remember the little jingle,
there was a young lad named Bright who traveled faster than light.
He departed one day in an Einsteinian way and came back on the
previous night. Maybe, itís something like that.
O.K., I guess that could happen, but do you understand why A. A. was
unable to complete the task?
Yes, I have thought about it quite a bit and I think I do. Remember
that A. A. was instructed to leave a copy of his Catalogue of
Catalogues that do not List Themselves in the library. Remember
also that he told the Librarian that his catalogue of catalogues did
not list itself. So A. A.ís catalogue of catalogues is a catalogue
in the library that does not list itself. So if the list within his
catalogue of catalogues is to be complete, it must list itself.
Why didnít A. A. just add the name of his catalogue of catalogues to
the list within the Catalogue of Catalogues that do not List
Themselves while he was with the Librarian?
Well, if he did that, then his catalogue of catalogues would list
itself, so its name wouldnít belong on the list of Catalogue of
Catalogues that do not List Themselves.
Let me see if I understand this correctly. Since A. A.ís catalogue
of catalogues does not list itself, its name belongs on the list
within his catalogues of catalogues. But if the name of his
catalogue of catalogues is on this list, then it lists itself and so
its name doesnít belong on the list. This just leads us in circles:
if the name is not on the list, then it must be on the list and if
the name is on the list, then it cannot be on the list.
Exactly! That Librarian is a sneaky old devil. His task cannot be
completed successfully, so I guess that we wonít be able to tell the
Freemasons of Alderson where to find Wireís teeth.
Well, at least A. A. got his own planet to rule.
Yes, I guess that A. A. did benefit from the experience, but itís
disappointing that the search for Wireís teeth must continue. Do you
think Wireís teeth will ever be found?
It just goes to show that not all problems can be solved, even when
they appear to be very simple!
Yes, we can often be trapped by our own logic, and it can sometimes
lead us to behave like a cat chasing its own tail.
Exactly, but sometimes considering a paradox can lead to great fun
and, as Hercule Poirot would say, ďto an exercise for the little