It came about from general confusion, as so often happens. It had always been the easiest of mistakes, especially in reading handwriting, a zero looked like the letter ‘O’, and vice versa. Even to write about it now, it seems best to spell out the numeral. So, it became common practice, wherever both characters were used, to slash through the numeral to indicate a difference. In that way, seldom were the two confused. However, as handwriting became less and less often used, the practice was relegated to the obscure and esoteric practices of mathematicians.
There came a time, though, when an artistic soul decided to erect a statue in defiant protest in the face of incessant attacks on everything once cherished and sacred. At personal expense and with much effort, the artist brought a large block of granite into a community square. Behind a drape his work proceeded as he chipped, chiseled and smoothed a symbol for everything he felt was left to the meaning of his existence, which amounted to nothing.
Not wanting to offend any of those who professed offense at the mere mention of what many once believed or any image associated with past beliefs, the sculptor worked in concealment. Only the finished product would be least likely to affect anyone’s hyper-sensitivity. So, he smoothed and uniformly rounded edges. What resulted was something that bore a striking and undeniable resemblance to the number zero. And that seemed fitting.
The perfect symbol completed, word went out far and wide and a multitude assembled to witness the unveiling, the secret was to be revealed. When others beheld the masterpiece, its purpose and meaning were misconstrued. The likeness was mistakenly believed to be the letter ‘O’. The masses misunderstood the artistic impulse thinking it was instead a tribute to their honored leader as he had recently prevailed in a quadrennial re-anointment from the general electorate. The powerful who attended to the leader thought the statue a most appropriate representation, comparing it to the image used on the leaders campaign paraphernalia. Heralded a masterpiece, it was immediately adopted and incorporated into cultural folklore as a tribute to the exalted one henceforth and forever associated with it. It became the official icon for the living icon the majority so adored. And that also seemed fitting.
No one except the artist knew the original concept was to protest the erosion of values, and since he was significantly amused at the overblown hype and mass hysteria, he thought it unnecessary to explain the initial intent of what had become the most celebrated statue around. It was widely regarded as his breakthrough masterpiece. As its creator, he was venerated and adored as were every subsequent fruit of his artistry. Yet, always he knew the truth and it amused him greatly. As often happened in a world too full of mindless miscreants and doleful dullards who pretended to appreciate art, sometimes the artists idea just didn’t come through as desired. And the artist said, “O, well!”
The majority ruled and in their collective, though sometimes suspect, wisdom they decreed the most widely admired artistic expression of an ‘O’ was brilliant in its simplicity. However, its creator always knew the truth that it could be viewed in other ways. All those who believed in nothing but the emptiness of their own miserable lives adopted the object for their praise and worship. It seemed ironic to the artistic soul that he should be immortalized in such a way. The masses were never to be disappointed as they expected no salvation except through the survival of their genes from one generational pool to the next. Their souls were as bankrupt as their assets and their IQ’s were potentially nil. Science taught them the only immortality came through proliferation of the species, and so they did more and more of that. As those sorts of people were already actively and willingly engaged in worshipping the statue they believed to be an ‘O’ that was truly a zero, to the artist that seemed very fitting, indeed.