The Paradox of the Last Piece

The musings of a lost and broken mind

A thought arises: Hunger. You scamper to the buffet table, only to find it bare except for one small piece of cake. You have already devoured your piece, but you are still hungry. It is a long drive home from this party, and you won't have time to stop. Take it? Leave it? Sit there and ponder it until you are so hungry manners wont even matter to you anymore? The pondering begins, and there is no clear end in sight.

The angel upon your right shoulder tells you that it is impolite to take the last piece, for you are therefore denying someone else that piece - which is especially cruel if they are even hungrier than you are. The devil on your left shoulder whispers calmly in your ear that you shouldn't listen to the moron on the other side. "He's imaginary," goes the logic, "he doesn't know how hungry you REALLY are."

Unfortunately for your stomach, your conscience gets the better of you, and decides that it is better to leave the cake for someone else who is hungrier. As you begin to walk away, the voice from the left begins to cry that it is really MEANER to leave the cake behind, and if you would only listen to him, he would explain why.

At this point, you begin to wonder if you sampled a little too much of the punch, but give listening a shot anyway. The little red demon points out to you that if you leave the cake behind, someone else would have to make the same decision you just did, and that might cause him or her considerable emotional stress. The angel thinks for a second, then agrees.

It is then that the devil realizes that he just convinced you to do something good, and he curses himself out of existence. Luckily for you, it doesn't leave any marks on your shoulder.

The angel is now thoroughly confused, not knowing what is right, and what is wrong. He sits and worries and thinks and worries again for quite awhile, and you are getting bored. You finally flick him off your shoulder and go and get the piece of cake and eat it. It tastes good. Then you choke on it, fall over, and die.

Copyright 2003, Mark E. Phair. All rights reserved.
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