It’s strange that we all have an intimate relationship with paper we carry in our pockets. Everyday we need to ensure we have enough of it. Or that we have a piece of plastic that works some computer magic to give us more paper or can be accepted in lue of the paper itself.
Some places don’t use paper anymore. They use some fancy polymer that lasts longer. The idea, though, is the same.
All day long we give away pieces of our lives for it. Parents give away time with their kids. Lovers spend time apart, just for more of it.
Not that this is some selfish pursuit. The lust for this paper is necessary. We need it to eat, we need it to exist. For all but very few it is a necessity, an absolute necessity.
Those lucky few who don’t need it are the odd ends of the distribution. Either they have so infinitely much of it that it must seem to lose real value, or they have managed to never need it in the first place- perhaps in their society they have avoided it, but at the price of having very little in terms of what our modern world offers.
The fact we assign so much value to this paper is not surprising. As long as we have had civilization, a term that when sharing a dictionary with ‘genocide’ and ‘genital mutilation’ seems almost an oxymoron, we have used some form of this paper.
Coins at first, stamped then buried for the British Museum to display meliena later. Two coins for the ferryman, and two for the ‘Treasures of Ancient Greece Traveling Exhibit’.
Paper was first used for this purpose in Song Dynasty China. There is a poem from that era I quite like. It speaks of a festival in early autumn, it was one of the few times a year young men and women were allowed to, in modern parlance, hangout. Marriages were arranged at the time, and people didn exaclty ‘chill’ with the opposite sex before they were hitched.
A young ‘dude’ as I believe they were called then saw a lovely lady- a ‘fine piece of ass’ as it would have been said in High Song Classical Chinese. This young woman, though, receded into the masses and he loses her in the crowds of merrymakers celebrating the holiday.
He mourns the loss of beauty, a beauty that is ever receding. I guess we all mourn that receding beauty, be in the mirror each day as age slowly wears our edges soft, or as our dreams turn out to just be that.
I can’t help but think of the dreams we all have about this paper. We’ll all have stacks of it, it will solve our problems, if we just had a bit more then something would happen.
Now, as winter comes in colder through the windows I look at the bills. I look at the stately gentleman in the center. He never went hungry, he didn’t bear witness to his decline.
A year ago this very portrait could have bought me food for a week, now most people won’t pick it up off the street.
I throw it into the fireplace onto the embers. It will keep me warm, serve that basic need, even if the numbers on it are now ‘worthless.’
As his face is eaten by the flame I can’t help but wonder, if we once decided it was worth a lot, and now we, or someone, decided it’s worthless, can’t we all just decide to end this madness and make it worth something again? Why when there is enough must we suffer. Why are other pictures still worth a lot and ours not?
Strange that we all know that we could make paradise on Earth for all of us to share, but it seems that dream has receded into the masses celebrating.
I’m not sure what, though.