Uranus

I wander to the place I know least and for a while I maybe like best, in a way; as an idea, as a thought, as a concept: the abstract liking of something from which you are distant, the fascination with unfamiliarity; the lure of the other; the stranger, the comfort, the awe. The steady roll on an invisible plane, the cool electric hue. The very slow seasons. Even the unwitting humour, lame though it is. It is a laconic planet I find here, unruffled, smooth and cyan. The awayness of it all, as at the end of despair. A well-neighboured distance; bookended, escorted by giants: significant in its own right but overlooked, overshadowed and, for no fault of its own, just not taken seriously: why would that be me?

There is no life here, but there is otherness and that in itself is exciting. It feeds my curiosity: to go a step further, to move beyond. To tumble on a different axis, to fall upwards; float frozen but not still, to sense a different kind of heat on a newly defined horizon. I expect to be alone here, but I’m surrounded by character: here, in the outskirts, in the slow moving cold, there are others like me: how did we all get here? What projected us into this orbit, so far away, it would seem, from the soul, so within?

These layers, these clouds, these rocks and these crystals, these rings, this ice and these moons, this magnetotail. They are not, perhaps, home, but they are a meaning all in themselves and they are somewhere, beautiful. True.

For quite some time I enjoy this quirkiness and become part of it, willingly, coolly; I relish the arms length attention I get. Nobody knows me here or cares who I am, but my aloofness my look and my languid demeanour are being noted. My hair the peroxide silver of this unbreathable atmosphere and my clothes the black of the all that surrounds me. If you know where I am you can find me and find me foreign and alien too.

Yet after a while I miss the simplicity of warmth. Not that I know what that means, but it means that I’m out in the cold and I want to come back now, closer to home, closer to the sun, closer to people who don’t understand me, closer to something I vaguely remember as love. This strangeness leaves me estranged from myself, and enjoying it now seems an effort. Soon, I know, I will have to let go, and I realise now that I’m not living my life in chronological order. That puzzles me for a moment until it occurs to me that time too is down to perception and there will come a time when it’ll all simply meld into one, as it must.

Entropy.

Out here I thought I felt a sense of freedom until that sense became quite oppressive. That, too, was a surprise. And so I let go. Slowly, at first and then readier, more. This is not for me, after all, this agreeable spectacle, this isolation: it could quite easily turn into a habit, a mannerism, a cliche, a role.

The young man at a soiree (it was that more than that it was a party a dinner or just a drinks) who’d looked at me and said: ‘are you for real?’ That’s when I knew I was in danger of becoming a caricature of myself. And Uranus could be my place no more. I like this now, this clarity, this resolution. This immense relief too, not to have to be defined by weirdness forever. Strange, yes, curious, always, different, maybe (then ‘different’ to what?), but not impenetrable and not obscure. Not even, in that sense, mysterious, really: there are so very few mysteries in the universe, apart from the multiverse of all possible universes itself, and that, too, is only a matter of consciousness and the cumulative number of braincells firing at it: one day it will just be another reality too. Like blossoms, like spring. Like the awakening, too.

I’m getting better at this, being me. This walk seems to be doing wonders…   

78 Value

‘The concept of “making money”‘ – Sedartis postulates gravely, and wonders is it largely, in character, in origin even, American, although it has now so widely, so almost universally, it appears, so comprehensively, at any rate, on our little planet, been adopted – ‘is not only flawed’, (all concepts are flawed, he points out: it is inherent in human thinking that it cannot be flawless), ‘but fundamentally, principally wrong.’

I am glad to hear this, though I can’t be entirely certain why.

‘Nobody makes money, even the National Bank or the Federal Reserve or the Bank of England, or any bank anywhere in the world does not “make” money, and nor does any business, nor does any person, nor does any entity ever really “make” money, unless you are thinking of the actual physical process of printing notes or minting coins, but that, as we know, is not “making money” either, that is merely manufacturing its representation; in fact, nobody “makes money,” ever.’

I’m inclined to agree and instinctively it makes sense to me what Sedartis is thinking, though I haven’t thought it through myself, and I wonder if Sedartis really has, or if he’s just doing so now on the hop, because he finds himself once again sitting next to me on a train.

I like the way Sedartis takes his seat next to me, mostly on trains, occasionally on a bench by a lakeside, rarely though, if ever on planes, and never so far that I am aware of on a bus or indeed in a cab.

‘Money is not “made”, it is simply invented and agreed upon in a compact between people and then moved from one place to another, either physically (as notes and coins or cheques or other pieces of paper or some such material as may be deemed in this compact practical and acceptable) or virtually (as digital data), and no matter which way this happens, it is always symbolic: money is nothing other than an abstraction of “value” and that in itself makes it inherently problematic because how, pray, do you define “value” and, more to the point, how do you keep sight of your values when the abstraction of value, money, becomes so prominent in your culture that you perceive it as “value” of itself?’

I have no immediate answer to that. Sedartis is not expecting me to. 

‘And so, not for moral or political or ethical reasons, though possibly for these also, but first and foremost for logical reasons, any economy that is predicated on the idea of “making money” and any culture that embraces this idea as of value of and in itself is not only flawed (as any human economy will always be), but fundamentally, principally wrong. Whereas the moment we stop thinking of “making money” and start thinking instead of “creating value”, for which, in one form or another money may (or may not) serve as an instrument, as a lubricant, so to speak, as a convenient communication tool of quantifiable entities, such, as and where they exist, no less and certainly no more, as soon as we do that we can begin to aspire to wish to become able to consider ourselves an advanced society.’

I like the way Sedartis uses the first person plural when he thinks to me. It makes me feel we’re in this together, somehow, though somehow I’m almost certain we’re not; or rather, we most likely are, but not at the level, and not in the way that is obvious, but in a deeper, more meaningful, more universal sense; and in that sense almost certainly we absolutely are in this together. Are we not one?…

‘Creating value,’ Sedartis expounds,’ is no narrow concept, it applies, of course, but not only, to making things and inventing technology and imagining art, and it equally applies to providing a service, to accomplishing a task, to building a place or exploring a thought, in such a way that it is of some value to someone somewhere sometime, even if that value can not necessarily at the point of its inception be recognised or defined or possibly even imagined.’

That makes sense to me and strikes me as almost stating the obvious just a bit. Is it?

‘Thus, being a good waiter is creating value much in the way that being a good cleaner is creating value, as being a good musician is creating value, as designing a good app is creating value, as singing and recording a good song is creating value.’

Who can decide, I wonder – who can determine – whether something is ‘good’?

‘Nobody can decide or determine, of course, what is “good”, at least not in the simple, undifferentiated terms we lazily espouse. Yes, you can agree on “good practice” or define standards, but is a waiter who is slow and a little clumsy but extremely attentive and friendly and charming and perhaps a little flirtatious, just enough to send a delicious tingle down your spine each time he tops up your glass of rosé, any less good a waiter than one who is super efficient but essentially dead behind the eyes and just doing what he has accepted as his lot or his duty for the time being? Who can say what good writing is? Or good art. Or good music. Or good anything. Nobody can, it’s almost entirely a question of taste and the prevailing consensus: the current culture. But what you can say, because you know when you see it and when you come across it and when you experience it – all of which is the same, I’m only emphasising the point, perhaps unnecessarily – is whether somebody does what they’re doing to the best of their ability and whether they seek to make that ability in the longer term greater, or whether what they do is perfunctory or indeed – and that is by some margin the worst – they are only doing it to “make money.”’

I think along, and as far as I can, I sense I concur.

‘Ask not, therefore, how you can “make money”, ask how you can create value. Expect not to be valued by money, expect that the value you create is honoured.’

I’m about to interject an inconsequential and certainly not fully formed but broadly approving thought of mine own but Sedartis is not yet done:

‘Honouring value is not a narrow concept either: value can be honoured, also, but not only, in terms of money; it can be honoured in appreciation; in kind, in gratitude, in return gesture or service, in goods, in opportunity, in experience.’

Certainly it can. That, too, though, I reckon, is hardly new…

‘It is not, of course, new. It only is sometimes, too often, forgotten. Because it means by necessity that if you are doing something that does not create value but diminishes it – for example making and selling something shoddy that will make people angry because it is not fit for purpose, or taking advantage of somebody’s situation and taking more of their time, their mind, their emotion, their being, than you deserve, in return for less than they need – then stop doing that immediately: you’re not “making money”, you’re taking from somebody under false pretences or, perhaps innocently, feeding your incompetence off their gullibility. Either way, rather than creating value and enriching the world, you deceive yourself into believing that you can enrich yourself as you destroy value and diminish the world. You unbalance the universe. And the universe, in the long term, will not be unbalanced.’

We are nearly at our destination, I forget what it is. Sedartis seems much better now. His thoughts thus afloat, thus released, thus engendered, he inwardly smiles.