Monday, November 24, 2014

Money Wisdom #312

"The power of money is spiritual, not purely social. It calls individuals into the state of subjectivity of the one who participates in the market; it calls them out to be individuals, characterized by violent claims to property, the self-discipline of labor, and enjoyment of freedom and prosperity. It is not sufficient, therefore, to point out the destructive effects of market society and to advise people to return to local or traditional economic activities, for the blessings of enhanced productivity and prosperity available to individuals through the market can always be contraposed to the curses and limitations of traditional life. The morality of the market will always prove more attractive to those who stand to benefit from it than other bases for morality. The theology of money, with its promises, its narcissistic self-positing as the supreme standard and measure of all value, its speculative detachment from current conditions, and its despotic power expressed in debt, can be transformed only by a stronger spiritual power."

Philip Goodchild Theology of Money (2009) p.129

Friday, November 21, 2014

Money Creation and Society

Yesterday there was a general debate in the House of Commons on 'Money Creation and Society' - which was, as noted in the debate itself, the first time 'money creation' has been a subject of parliamentary debate since the Banking Act of 1844. (You may remember in the post I did on the Giro that there was no need for a new act of parliament to get it going, and so there was no debate)

By way of marking this momentous event then, I thought it'd be appropriate, at the very least, to post the video of the debate.

I'd guess that if you're reading my blog you'll already be familiar with the ideas discussed. This Quarterly Bulletin from the BoE is referenced as a good explanation of 'modern money creation'. The reform group Positive Money lobbied for the debate. I'm not sure how the process works but the debate was secured by a cross party group of money-reformers [Michael Meacher (Lab), Caroline Lucas (Green), Douglas Carswell (UKIP) and David Davis (Con)] but the leader of the pack seemed to be Steve Baker who is the conservative MP for High Wycombe. Steve comes across as a fairly hardcore libertarian, quoting Mises, referencing Hayek, extolling the virtue of crypto-currencies and name-checking bitcoin.

As for the debate itself, all participants seem to share a dissatisfaction with the current situation where private banks have an effective monopoly on money creation. This they claim - and I think they're right - is the cause of many social and economic ills. Broadly, their suggested remedies divide along political lines. The Left suggests that money creation should fall under the remit of parliamentary committees, the Right thinks the market should decide.

No surprises there, then.

It was a special moment for me to hear the question 'What is Money?' being asked in the House of Commons. It was in Steve Baker's opening speech at around 18.40 in the video. He asks "What is Money? and then answers with 'Money is the basis of our moral existence'. That perked me up. I thought for a moment that he might talk about Value monism and money in the moral universe and all the weird stuff I love. But no. It was wishful thinking on my part. He was meaning it in a Hayekean free-market sense. And as I've explained elsewhere there is a fundamental ontological problem with Hayek's idea of Money (For Hayek money comes through price from markets; but actually money precedes markets and prices - chronologically, logically, and ontologically)

This links into a troubling theme for me. It seems to be received wisdom - accepted and unquestioned by all those in the debate - that money is a social institution subject to political will. This will expresses a desire for freedom and equality, and depending on the balance of those desires, finds its form in actions that seek either to bureaucratize or to democratize currency. The problem occurs when those alternate actions inevitably fail. The response that follows is a greater expression of political will and a subsequent energizing of the particular action. This too inevitably fails. And so, when a critical point is reached the action is switched, from bureaucratization to democratization or vice versa, and the process begins a new. The eternal reoccurrance of the eversame.

There are two basic problems.

Firstly, the assumption of causality - of money creation as subject to, or a function of, political will - is wrong. (Money cannot be wholly defined as a social institution either, but we'll deal with that another time).

And secondly, Money has the capacity to reflect back any duality - the political duality, of left and right; the economic duality of supply and demand; the moral duality of right and wrong. And the louder we shout at money, the more deafening its echo.

And there is one much more fundamental problem for the political will in regard to money.

(For me) Understanding money requires a total prestation of being. Of our being, to money's being. By their very nature political prestations are partial and so will always be in a confused conflict with money, as money reflects back the schizophrenic essence of the political. As such, there is no political vision that can achieve a new and meaningful understanding of money. As far as money and politics goes there can be no new heaven, and therefore no new earth.

It is in the realm of the sacred where we present ourselves (to God) as whole; as a complete being. All our thoughts, deeds, feelings, emotions, and actions are known to God. And, so the story goes, we can only know God if we stand before him naked, with our soul exposed.

What I'm arguing for in respect of money, is that we must expose ourselves to it in this way. I'm saying that intellectual understanding is good. That emotional, visceral, aesthetic, and even a sexual understanding of money, are all good. But our understanding of money will forever fall short until we can experience its sacred nature in a spiritual way.

I know that might sound totally alien. Even sacrilegious. But monetary reform - and by that I mean real monetary reform not just tinkering with currency - is about our relationship, both mundane and profound, with money. A change in ourselves will reflect in money, and we will see that change reflect back to us.

Burn it !

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Money Wisdom #311

I've never known what to think about that million quid stunt. if I remember rightly I think it was Drummond who was interviewed in the guardian not long after when they did that post-burn tour, something like 'is it art? is it bollocks?' like they didn't really have a clue themselves. The same arguments reactions and debates raged as now and the indignation of how could they, or what they should have done with the money. But that article really stuck with me, the timeline of events, how the bank didn't want them to draw the cash out and how it tried to make them insure the cash but they wouldn't. The solicitor or witness or whoever it was who was present with them at the burning in some derelict cottage in the outer hebrides I think it was. And how it was all over so quickly, and the emptyness after the flames went out, and the ash in the old fireplace. I told my daughter about it not long ago and she just went wide eyed and said 'wow', and we didn't talk about it any further. The conversation just petered out. I'm sort of glad they did it I suppose. It doesn't fit with logic. Just an event that has no ryhme or reason, but they did it. It was just an act that was carried out, and depending how you look at it create certain reactions. But it still leaves me scratching my head. It would make a great film with no music.
Comments on Bill Drummond the five lessons I learned from Ken Campbell 18/11/2014 in the Guardian

Monday, November 17, 2014

Money Wisdom #310

"It is no longer sufficient to oppose will and matter, representation and production, being and becoming, the one and the many, transcendence and immanence, for the relations between these dualisms are always mediated by a spectral power that authorizes their realization. It is a question of belief and desire. Even if no-one really wants money - it is always a means, never an end - everyone believes in money, or, rather, money is the reality, the interiority of belief and desire in which we dwell. It is not we who desire money; it is money that desires us."

Philip Goodchild Theology of Money (2009) p.69

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Money Wisdom #309

Money... ....reconstitutes the social order as an order of interdependence, desire, and credit, it is that which is the supreme principle of reality. In a market society, there is no higher aim than making money, for money is the reality principle. Within a market society there is an unlimited demand for profits. This power of realization and this demand are purely social forces, subsisting outside the human will in society itself. It is an impersonal and abstract force, beyond the pleasure principle. Indeed, as the means of access to pleasure, the means of making desire effective, money must be acquired through profits or hoarding. One passes through that which has no intrinsic desirability - the acquisition of money - to gain access to pleasure. This is the profound link between capitalism and the structure of the Oedipus complex.

Philip Goodchild Theology of Money (2009) p.62

Friday, November 14, 2014

Money Wisdom #308

In the last instance, representation rests on a utopian faith. Modern values are supported not by nature or reason but by nothing less than a secular theology, Theological questions may be reintroduced as soon as one places representation - that which abstracts from time - back within time. Saving time forms the essence of the modern project of emancipation. Only when one is liberated from the constraints of natural necessity that may foreshorten our life spans, and one is liberated from the constraints of social obligation that occupy our time, does one have the freedom to become what one wishes to be, The aspiration is for a condition of atheism where on is finally unconditioned by God or nature. Economic rationality depends on a symbolization of time so that a calculation can be performed that minimizes relative expenditure while maximizing control over nature through technology and maximizing control over social obligation through money. The certainty that attaches to economic rationality derives from its proofs in practice: technological invention and acquisition of wealth.  Yet the knowledge power and wealth acquired are always local and partial. Projecting a future when liberation will be complete, economic reasoning is faith seeking understanding. In this total future, abstract symbols of time will effectively represent time as open, empty, and undetermined in a glorious, heavenly future where the passage of time is no longer constrained by natural necessity or social obligation. Trust in the transcendent will vanish only when one finally attains the complete repeatability and universality required for scientific certainty, and when all knowledge is grounded on evidence. Only as such will the secular sphere be constituted, the sphere of the present age untrammeled by obligation to repeat the past or anxious expectation of the judgments of the future, where all causes are mediated to their consequence by knowledge.

Philip Goodchild Theology of Money (2009) p.53-54

Money Wisdom #307

"Democracy is corrupted at the origin because it subscribes to an impossible ideal.
      Similarly, the political ideal of freedom echoes modern humanism. It is a freedom from public representation of divine command or the scared common good; it is freedom to determine one's own will by entering into contracts in the marketplace; and it is freedom to master a portion of nature or dispose of one's property as one pleases. Lacking public representations or manifestations of a common good, free and open debate must necessarily settle on such individual freedom as its lowest common denominator.Once guarding against threats to the individual or property becomes the essence of the common good, then manipulation of fear becomes the pre-eminent tool of governance, and absolute rule by the state may be sanctioned to defend against an emergency. Yet this very perception of the primacy of threat and consequent absolutism derives not from taking freedom and property as ontological points of departure. Instead, the positing of freedom and property as a basis derives from the mechanisms of representation and discussion themselves. For freedom and property alone have universal appeal to immediate interests."

Philip Goodchild Theology of Money (2009) p.53

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Money is as Innocent as the Gun by Geoff Winde

This is so brilliant I just had to give it its own post.

It's a thirty minute talking head performance of a poem about money. Now. If you're anything like me, even with my obvious interest in money, you'll be thinking, yeah, but thirty minutes. Of poetry. I can manage Under Milk Wood, but I dunno. Thirty minutes is long.

But trust me. This is absolutely brilliant. All the themes and features of money I've been discussing on this blog these past few years are in there. Even the golden shower thing.

And everything about the performance resonates too. From the less-than-sartorial-elegance of Geoff's attire to the yellow/gold walls. It all works. If you're prepared to let it.

30 minutes.

I offer you a full money back guarantee should you not be entirely satisfied.


Money is as Innocent as the Gun from moneyisasinnocentasthegun on Vimeo.

Geoff's site is

Here's a few extracts

Have you ever heard, such a smoke screen of a word,
for something that’s just printed?
Well, if money is just printed, just a print!
Then deep down, deep down we’re all skint.
money is not worth the paper it’s printed on,
hold on, that’s a bit strong,
Money is worth more than the paper it’s printed on,
wait a minute that sounds like a con,
Money is worth more and less than the paper its printed on,
Hold on that’s a contradiction,
but, money is worth more and less than the papers it’s printed on …
How can what something is worth, be more and less than what it is?
Money is … more … or … less … money! more or less,
money is more or less money, more or less,
The more money there is, the less money is, the less the numbers are worth,
The less money there is, the more money is, the more the numbers are worth,
It realy does make you wonder whether money is of this earth
But don't read! Listen and watch.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Money Burning Talk at the Cowley Club

Last Wednesday night, 5th November, I took the sexy Berlingo down to The Cowley Club in Brighton to this event:

It was organised by @econoklast (aka Michael) with whom I've exchanged a fair few emails about some mad money stuff. I was honored to be asked down to say a few words alongside +John Higgs, author of the incredibly brilliant The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds

[I forgot to mention it in my Stick to Staff post, but John's book was a cheeky stowaway on my recent pilgrimage to Snowdon. I knew nothing about it until we were at the end of our trek when I caught a glimpse of the tell-tale yellow spine poking out of my daughter's bag.]

I most hugely grateful to Michael for coming up with the idea of the event and putting it all together. And of course for being foolish enough to ask me along. 

This is Mouse. I wonder if her use of eggs
was referencing
Bataille's 'Story of the Eye'?
I haven't given a talk in over a decade. The last time was in 2002 at the Sexual Freedom Coalition (SFC) conference at the Round Chapel in Hackney. Sally and I were asked to talk by virtue of Naturalsex winning an Erotic Award. I remember finding the place and taking as a good omen, 'Harris' appearing in big white letters on the corner just opposite the Round Chapel. Egoism and optimism can combine to attribute positive meaning to coincidence. In this case though, egoism and pessimism may have been more appropriate. A good omen, it was not.

The theme of my talk was commerce and sex. It was basically arguing that money and a 'commercial ethic' should be a conscious element in the events and organisations of those committed to the ideals of the SFC. My feeling was that a propagation of the SFC's ethical ideals - which were fundamentally pansexual* - required a greater engagement with the moneyed world. A rejection of the commercial may provide an effective legal buffer against aggressive police action targeting organizers of sex events (something to which the SFC had themselves been victim). A rejection of commerciality may even reflect the political sentiment of the members of the SFC, but it should not become an ethical end in itself. Well, at least not for the SFC as an organisation. Obviously, individually we make our own choices.

It didn't go down too well. The SFC has a very close relationship with Outsiders - a charity which 'helps support disabled people with their lifestyles'. 'Being conscious of a commercial ethic' was the new song at greatest hits gig. In fact, it probably wasn't even that. More like, a prog-rock cover at a punk gig.

Then came Mouse.

The SFC conference is made up of speeches interspersed with performances by erotic artists. Mouse gave a very memorable performance. Initially it involved over-sized wooden spoons and eggs. For the finale her aptly named partner, Cat, administered a milk enema. Mouse received this whilst on her hands and knees, then turned herself round so her bum was pointing at us and then expelled explosively drenching everyone on the front few pews in bottom milk.

I not sure the founding fathers of the United Reformed Church had this sort of thing in mind when they built the Round Chapel in the 1870's for their Clapton Park congregation. Still, I'm sure Mouse's energetic ejaculation served to wash any trace of my commercial ethics speech from people's minds. Even the unshockable Tuppy Owens was lost for words.

So that was the last time I gave a talk.

Anyway, Michael's 'Ghost Money' talk at the Cowley Club was an enema free event. I didn't count but I'd guess there were 25 or 30 people there, which was a fantastic turn out. Doubly so, given that many Brightonians were heading to neighboring Lewes for the Bonfire Night Celebrations - described as 'the biggest celebrated Fifth November Event in the world', There seemed to be a wonderfully resonant symbolism in having a small event devoted to the burning of money happening simultaneously and next door to a huge event devoted to the burning of effigies. Breaking taboos and controversy seems common to both; in Lewes, kids black up, crosses and effigies of political leaders both historic and current are burned. In 2012 Angela Merkel received the Lewes treatment and this year Alex Salmond was only just saved at the last moment from the flames. The tradition stretches back beyond Guy Fawkes in 1605 to some fifty years earlier when 17 Lewes men were burned at the stake under the reign of Mary Tudor. And like most such rituals and festivals you can look to even earlier origins, as events and our reactions to them are overlaid upon one another, and we struggle to assimilate into our conscious being, the darker psychical undercurrents of our mindscape.

Its also worth noting that Lewes was a very important town for the creation of money a thousand years or so ago. Records of moneyers go back to c.930 during the reign of Æthelstan, and Lewes was made an official mint town in 1006.

All seemed to bode well for a night of talking about Money Burning, then.

John opened with a reading from his book, and then talked about Money Burning and the KLF. Michael introduced the concept of Ghost Money, And then I chipped in with my bit which was essentially a pitch to persuade people to take up money burning as a ritual.

Here's a bullet point summary of my talk;

I opened with an explanation of why, how, and when I burn money. I claimed that the ritual is a transcendent experience of pure forgiveness. I then talked about some different ways of perceiving it. Namely;
  • Literal - by burning a note you are literally forgiving the promise made on it by the BoE. The interesting thing about the promise is that it is perpetual. It's a promise, to keep a promise, to keep a promise, etc, etc. By burning the note you forgive that perpetual chain of promises.
  • Visceral - there are a range of reactions to money burning, both within the burner and those around him. Pitch the amount you burn to the edge of painful and you'll be able to assimilate the emotions and feelings it provokes. This is very important and only accessible to those who have done the ritual. 
  • Aesthetic - there is a primal beauty in the burning. Everybody has stared at a fire. In burning money the new and the ancient coexist in powerful combination. Similarly juxtaposed are the mundane and the profound. Paper currency is ubiquitous and everyday, setting fire to it is deeply symbolic and uniquely taboo.
  • Intellectual - the intellectual response to money burning reveals a relation and differentiation between money and currency. Quickly one is confronted with deep philosophical issues about the nature of reality. Currency is inside time and space, MONEY is outside time and space, and the note you burn seems to straddle these two worlds.
  • Spiritual/Magical - rituals are creative of time, marking death and allowing rebirth. Money burning is so powerful in this respect because of its purity. It is an irreversible self-sacrifice that will - literally, on your first burning - reform and give a new meaning to your relationship with money.
Then the good folks who'd blessed us with their time asked questions and discussed with John, Michael and myself everything money burning. And there were some excellent questions, and thoughtful and interesting discussion. I just found it so heart-warming that people seemed genuinely interested in the KLF's million quid, money burning generally and what it all means.

On the drive home, I was thinking about a couple of the questions and wishing I'd said such and such and kicking myself for not mentioning something else. That's inevitable I guess. The joy of writing a blog though is you get to have a second go.

So this is my attempt to do justice to a couple of those questions.

The first one was about forgiveness. Whom or what was money burning forgiving? Forgiveness, the questioner pointed out, was really about self-forgiveness. 

Gosh. That's a good one. As a matter of fact, Sally always asked the same question of my money burning, albeit more directly; 'Do you feel you need to be forgiven?' I doubt there is a question that cuts any deeper spiritually, emotionally or psychologically. My answer to Sally was, 'Yes. I think we all do.'

The money burning ritual is not about a specific forgiveness. There is no object or action, internal or external, that its target. It's about the impossible idea of pure forgiveness.

Most people are used to the psychoanalytical emphasis on the importance of guilt in culture. But guilt of course, is not just about bad things we've done. It's not even about taboos we may have broken in thought but not in deed. Guilt exists in our psyches and in our cultures for potential acts buried so deeply in our subconscious, we may never be fully aware of them. And yet somehow, we feel guilt for them. Guilt is the cosmic background radiation of the psychical universe. 

These ideas, of course, annoy the hell out of materialists. Their key argument against Freud's work is that there is no material method of transference between the historic feelings that the deeds of our ancestors provoked, and our own psyches today. Genes simply cannot carry that sort of information. 

In my exploration of money I'm very clear about not being bound to materialism. I won't allow ideas born of the exploration of matter to restrict or dictate my imaginings of money's metaphysics. To do so would seem foolish to me. The maxim of my 'general ontology' is Marc Shell's opening sentence to his seminal The Economy of Literature

"Those discourses are ideological that argue or assume that matter is ontologically prior to thought."

So I see forgiveness as fundamental and primal to existence itself. At the Cowley Club I think I said 'its like the ether of the universe' - not the best way to put it, but gives the idea. If guilt is the cosmic background radiation, then forgiveness is what absorbs, transforms and purifies it. Forgiveness is the green-blue earth absorbing the radiation-waste of the guilty sun. Forgiveness is a name we give to one side of primal and universal duality, guilt is the other.

Or, something like that.

If I were to talk about the importance of forgiveness to morality, or in the mindscape, or even in the moral universe, none of this would seem so odd. Forgiveness is - or should be - at the heart of religion. We all understand that its the process through we achieve any truly meaningful and vital form of psychological rebirth.

But even within this 'mindscape' interpretation we still tend to straight-jacket forgiveness. To conceptualize it we have to place it in the realm of subject and object; subjective in the sense that it is an action that takes place within our thoughts, and objective in the sense there must be someone or something toward which the forgiveness is directed (I cover similar ground to this in my Intent and Intentionality essay)

Georg Simmel noted that Value and Money seem to occupy a special place between, or beyond subject and object. I think the same is true for pure forgiveness which is why I think burning money connects to it in a special way. As I say, burning money is as close to pure forgiveness as we can get.

Another question raised was about the distinction between money and currency. I emphasized this as an important intellectual response to money burning. 

What I said was that 'currency exists inside time and space and money exists outside time and space'. But I didn't think the explanation I gave, of my view or of the wider academic debate, was particularly coherent.

I've threatened on a couple of occasions to write a brief (@1K words) summary of the academic debate**. I'll not do that here, but briefly:.

The two key protagonists are Nigel Dodd and Geoffrey Ingham. It's Cambridge versus the LSE again. But unlike Hayek and Keynes, Nigel and Geoffrey are sociologists not economists***. In fact, these days the interesting stuff on money doesn't come from economists at all. Dodd, Ingham and Zelizer are sociologists, Hart and Graeber are anthropologists, Shell is a literary critic, and Seaford is a classicist. Economics seems still stuck on the question of whether money is neutral, or not (it's not).

In his recent (2014) The Social Life of Money, Nigel describes early on (p.5) the problems we have conceptualizing money in the face of it's changing forms, and our inability to satisfactorily define even the most basic of distinctions, that between money and currency. 
During the past two decades or so there has been a growing interest in the changing nature of money. Researchers have been looking into the emergence of new monetary forms: for example, complementary currencies, and Internet or electronic monies. Scholars have been predicting that the relationship between money and the state is coming under increasing threat from ‘alternative’ monies. But for all the empirical richness that these recent contributions add to our understanding of money, there is no common view of what counts as money in a general sense. There never has been a consensus about this: the extant literature on money is replete with debates over competing definitions. Even our language is confused. Take the distinction between ‘money’ and ‘currency’. While most scholars accept that the second term is narrower than the first, they are divided as to whether it should refer simply to legal tender, or whether currencies are monies that – literally – circulate in the sense of being passed from hand to hand.
In his earlier work The Sociology of Money, Nigel split his conception of money into 'money', and 'monetary networks' which I suggested in my review was akin to the notion of money (outside time and space) and currency (inside time and space). In The Social Life of Money he develops a conception of money as a 'socially powerful' and 'socially necessary' fiction or illusion, albeit one with a huge and diverse empirical richness (the empirical richness bit is where you'll find currency). You can think of Nigel's MONEY as an impossible conceptual perfection and of currency as our bound-to-failure attempts to achieve it.

For Geoffrey Ingham on the other hand, written into the essence of money is authority. In his The Nature of Money (review, ramble) the story is about how 'the very idea of money' (by which I think he means our ability to ascribe abstract value to objects) becomes manifest in currency through authority, institutional rules, and 'collective intentionality'. Collective intentionality, as Ingham means it, is a conception about shared mental states originally suggested by philosopher of language John Searle. Roughly put, it's the idea that we all believe something because we all believe something.

As far as my ideas about money and currency being outside and inside time and space goes....

My thinking about the distinction between money and currency began way before my money burning. It stemmed from wondering why there were two words for, what economists and economic historians were telling me was, the same thing. All those monetarist attempts to define M0, M1, M2 etc seemed arbitrary to me, bolted on after the fact. The two words seemed to point up some essential distinction, one which an economic conceptualization of money couldn't put its finger on. Bluntly, I just knew money and currency meant different things, as I think we all do. That's why we have the two words. (It might not be correct to describe money as a thing but you get my meaning).

What money burning brought home to me was that the twenty quid I burned seemed straddled across two worlds; the inside and outside of time and space. As currency, it seemed to be anchored in the here and now, burning it seemed to be directly connected to the manifest value of people and things. As money though, it seemed connected to the eternal, burning it seemed akin to releasing it from its earthly chains rather than destroying it. The twenty quid contained both the theoretical and the empirical. Burning it forced or facilitated an intellectual appreciation of that duality. I'm not claiming that this is a particularly unique intellectual insight. Far from it. Actually I think you can see it in all sorts of places. Most recently I've come across it in Albert Tauber's description of Freud's work straddling of the two worlds of res cogitans and res extensa, consciousness and matter, subject and object'.

Mervyn King the previous BoE governor used to have a video on the their website where he said that 'money is all just bits of paper'. This understanding of money is built upon a materialist rationalist perception of the world. There is little evidence to suggest that such an ontological conception is sufficient to understand money. Mervyn King might have found that out if he'd burned some of his own bits of paper.

When I was giving my answer I said that 'it was difficult to express all this in words'.

That does feel like a cop out. I still think its true - I reckon it's impossible to define the nature of money in words - but its also an easy excuse for my inability to find the right words.

Anyhow, to tie up these two themes of money/currency and forgiveness I thought it might be easier to draw a burning map. So here you are. Just remember, (as Robert Anton Wilson, Robert M Pirsig and Alfred Korzybski will all tell you) the map is not the territory!

The left-hand side is outside time and space; it is those things materialists would describe as unreal (although of course paradoxically they are the things that appear as most real to us, our values and the constraints placed upon our actions). The right hand side is inside time and space; we tend, in our day to day life to regard all these things as real (although spiritually of course were are always at pains to remind ourselves of their ephemeral nature, and even in a materialist mechanistic world view all these things disappear into the quantum soup). I tend to think the whole unreal/real thing whilst being in practical teems quite handy for day to day living, is conceptually pretty useless. Especially when it come to money.

In the middle of the picture is the twenty pound note you're going to burn. It's sitting there happily with one foot in the here and now (as currency), and the other in eternity (as money). I find it quite useful to think of the twenty quid as an axis around which a moral universe spins. (Kenelm Burridge said something similar).

Now imagine a circle drawn from currency (on the right hand side) that goes inside the outer circle passing through the sex and money of your twenty pound note. This circle would represent what I call a redemptive cycle - a series of events that creates the experience of time and space. Onto this smaller circle you could attach terms like debt, remorse, guilt, sacrifice and ritual - all the emotions and feeling that seem to arise from exchange (in the very broadest sense of the word). And at some critical point, at some balancing, or turning of psychical energies, you could mark a point of forgiveness.

So you can see that for me, forgiveness is not only a spiritual, emotional and psychological idea - as it is for all of us - but its also a term by which we understand a metaphysical marker as it were; a critical point where things turn back in on themselves. Pure (or perhaps it is better understood in this context as infinite) forgiveness would be represented on the map by a line whose circumference was equal to the outer circle and passes directly through VALUE.

In Life Against Death Norman O Brown speculates on a psychoanalytical theory of time
"In the id there is nothing corresponding to the idea of time.... ...If therefore, we go beyond Freud, and speculate seriously on the possibility of a consciousness not based on repression but conscious of what now is unconscious, then it follows a priori that such a consciousness would not be in time but in eternity" (p.97
This escape from time - and I love saying this its my favourite claim for money burning! - can be glimpsed when you burn your money.

If you give your twenty quid to your favourite most deserving charity you may well be helping those less fortunate than yourself, but what you are also doing is closing down the redemptive cycle. You are in effect binding the future to the past - you will experience the eternal re-occurrence of the eversame (as Nietzsche might say). And anytime time you spend your twenty quid, whether on a charity donation or blood diamonds and guns, you are - I think undeniably - supporting the very structures that give rise to injustice, and hence the need for charity, in the first place (we easily forget that charity is a means to justice, not an end in itself - this post has quite bit on this idea).

Burning money - active nihilism - stops the turning of that redemptive cycle, so that maybe, in that moment, you can glimpse new possible futures. It is the only action by which your twenty pound note can be truly subversive of the structures of capitalism.  By virtue of its purity, it is an act of forgiveness that expands the circumference of the redemptive cycle to the largest we can bear. A donation to charity, no matter how large, how deserving, or how kind-hearted will never be able to reveal those futures. Indeed, the true price you pay for the good feeling your donation manifests within you, is the closing off of those new possibilities.

The picture of the world I paint here, linking a moral universe to a material universe through money, comes directly - intellectually speaking - from recognizing that distinction and relation between money and currency.

Just before the halfway point of the talk John Higgs asked the question 'Has anyone here burned money?' And to my delight and surprise we found that there was another money burner among us. I was not alone ! I had a quick chat with the burner during the break. I'd love to recount the story here but stupidly, I didn't get a name, nor seek permission to tell the tale. The circumstances of the burning may reveal the identity of the burner, so I won't tell it here without permission.

But if my fellow money burner reads this and wants to share, perhaps you can post your story in the comments? Or maybe email me, so I can tell the story? We are a rare breed, but one day we shall be legion.

There was so much else we could have talked about on the night. Not least, as John Higgs pointed out, was the idea of sacrifice. As well, the themes of debt, guilt, sacredness and time were only really touched upon. There's a lot involved in the simple act of setting fire to twenty quid. And there is too the potential for an entire library of metaphysics and philosophy treatises to be written on the differences and similarites between burning £20 and burning 'ghost money' .

Thanks again, Michael.


* Pansexual is a tricky word by virtue of its inclusiveness. It got the SFC into hot water with the tabloids in the past. But their political vision of pansexuality did not include the most taboo and morally repellent of the philias. It was - in my experience of the organisation - about including those folks (especially the mentally and physically disabled) who have difficulty in expressing and realizing their sexual life.
** I think this may be helpful in several respects. It will expose the deficiencies in my own understanding of what is quite complex debate - and hopefully allow me to rectify them. It will also, I hope, be useful to those coming to the subject afresh. And it might point up the differences and similarities between my inside/outside of time and space distinction and the distinctions drawn in academia.
*** There is a debate to be had about whether you can describe Keynes and Hayek as economists. Hayek thought Keynes a great thinker but not much of an economist. Certainly neither of them were the narrow technical economists that the word conjures up today. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Power to Waste

According to Carl Schmitt's The Concept of the Political (from Philip Goodchild's Theology of Money) 'political concepts have a polemical character because they ultimately refer to the real possibility of physical killing'. And 'the decisive political power is the authority to make war and so publicly dispose of the lives of people, whether of the lives of the enemy or of one's own people, in sacrifice'.

Freud was similarly pessimistic (or realistic, depending on your point of view) about the nature of political power being a sublimated primal violence.

The idea of 'waste' though in this context struck me. That word 'dispose'.

Waste is a chapter and organizing theme in Nigel Dodd's 'The Social Life of Money'. In the conclusion he writes about Geraldine Juarez's bitcoin burning. (Geraldine is @submarine on twitter)
Geraldine Juarez, a Mexican artist based in Sweden, launched a performance art show in Berlin during early 2014 called “Hello Bitcoin”. Playing to growing public fascination with the digital currency that was launched in 2009... ...Juarez’s performance involves burning Bitcoins, ‘postdigital style’. On the face of it, this seems to ironicize the question that skeptics often ask about digital currencies, namely, what can they be worth if they are not real? To the question, ‘What makes a currency real?’, Juarez answers: ‘When we are able to burn them for real’. What is surely in question here, however, is not the materiality of Bitcoin, but the possibility that it can be wasted. ‘The real aspect making it into a currency is not when it is spent, but when it is burnt’, Juarez suggests. What defines the ‘reality’ of money, in other words, is not how we spend it, but how we waste it. (p.204)
The central thinker Nigel calls upon in Waste is Georges Bataille. I've ordered his three volume The Accursed Share which I'm looking forward. The most profound summary of his idea of waste, for me, is expressed by the idea that life on earth is created from the Sun's waste.

[Update: The Accursed Share arrived while I was writing this! It looks appropriately luxuriant and exuberant.]

This is from the wiki on The Accursed Share
The notion of "excess" energy is central to Bataille's thinking. Bataille's inquiry takes the superabundance of energy, beginning from the infinite outpouring of solar energy or the surpluses produced by life's basic chemical reactions, as the norm for organisms. In other words, an organism in Bataille's general economy, unlike the rational actors of classical economy who are motivated by scarcity, normally has an "excess" of energy available to it. This extra energy can be used productively for the organism's growth or it can be lavishly expended. Bataille insists that an organism's growth or expansion always runs up against limits and becomes impossible. The wasting of this energy is "luxury". The form and role luxury assumes in a society are characteristic of that society. "The accursed share" refers to this excess, destined for waste.
So to return to Philip Goodchild and Carl Schmitt, it's interesting to think of the idea of sacrifice as waste, and of political power as the ultimate ability to waste (as in the ability to waste what is of most value to us) For a private citizen there really is no true possibility of publicly 'wasting' a life. There are restrictions and punishments imposed by the social body which prevent this possibility - do so and you are cast out of the social body, you are yourself wasted. However, for those few with the ultimate political power such actions are possible.

There are a couple of other thoughts I have on waste.

First, in terms of its psychoanalytical meaning I'm more interested in the idea of spunk as waste than I am shit or piss. Psychoanalysis tends to view shit and piss as primary, because we shit and piss before we have any idea about spunk. I'm concerned however with depth of meaning rather than chronology. I'm not restricted by a physics ontology and the arrow of time. The relations between spunk, salt and currency are manifest, and may be peeled back in a ontological sense to reveal something about money and waste.

Secondly, I'm interested in the purity of money burning as a form a of waste. There seems to be some meaningful difference between spending on a luxury item you don't need, or even buying a stupidly expensive bottle of wine and pouring it down the sink, and burning your own cash. On a spectrum of waste, burning money would surely represent infinite waste (or as close to it as we can get).

All of these ideas are wrapped up in sacrifice, the sacred and pure forgiveness too, of course.

And so out of all this I hope to expand my argument for money burning so that says something about politics and waste. It would sound something like this:

Burning your money subverts the political power to waste. By choosing to waste your own power, you reach beyond what you are told is possible.

Just an aphorism of sorts at the moment, but hopefully in a few months when I'm outside Bataille I can put some flesh on the bones.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Money Wisdom #306

"Each time money is used, an epistemology, a metaphysics, a politics, an ethics, and even a theology is evoked."

Philip Goodchild Theology of Money (2009) p.20

Money Wisdom #305

"We return to the problem of the mediation between thought and reality. The truth of money is that which is the same in thought and in reality. If we locate this truth on the side of reality, then the truth of this truth can never be given within thought. If we locate this truth on the side of thought, then the truth of this truth can never be given within reality. In the case of money, if we understand it essentially as a commodity, then we cannot explain its appearance within thought, both as a measure of value and as an object of creation. If, by contrast, we take money to be essentially a standard of measure or comparison, then we cannot explain its real force and value. Money is a promise or sign of value, and as such the truth of money is not self-identically true. The value of a promise is not the same as the promised value."

Philip Goodchild Theology of Money (2009) p.17

Money Wisdom #304

"Immanuel Kant remarked, in regard to the ontological argument for the existence of God, that his financial position was affected very differently by a hundred real dollars than by the mere concept of them."

Philip Goodchild Theology of Money (2009) p.16

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Money Wisdom #303

"The value of assets is determined by speculative projections. Moreover, even if these anticipations prove misguided, at every stage the value of assets is determined by the next wave of anticipations about the future. Thus the future never ultimately arrives; it is purely ideal. Financial value is essentially a degree of hope, expectation, trust, or credibility. Just as paper currency is never cashed in, so the value of assets is never realized. It is future or transcendent. Being transcendent to material and social reality, yet also being the pivot around which material and social reality is continually reconstructed, financial value is essentially religious."

Philip Goodchild Theology of Money (2009) p.12

Money Wisdom #302

"Money is indeed the most important thing in the world; and all sound and successful personal and national morality should have this fact for its basis. Every teacher or twaddler who denies it or suppresses it, is an enemy of life. Money controls morality"

George Bernard Shaw quoted in 
Philip Goodchild Theology of Money (2009) p.4

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Giro and the Ideal of Economic Organisation

A year or two back on Twitter, I got chatting to @kiffr (Christopher) about the National Giro. He kindly sent me a couple of books, namely National Giro - Modern Money Transfer by Glyn Davies, and Giro Credit Transfer Systems by F.P. Thomson. Hidden in the Davies book was a 1980 reprint of the original 1965 parliamentary white paper A Post Office Giro. Christopher was one of the workers who surveyed the general public to find out their views it.

Now, I must confess, the intricacies of payments systems don't hold much fascination for me. Invariably, I find those involved in payments systems tend to view money as set of problems in need of a technological solution. This doesn't resonate with my view of Money as an aspect of reality (and unreality). Of the two books Christopher sent me F.P. Thomson's was very much in this 'technological' vein. It's a technical manual of Giro payment systems. However, Glyn Davies's was different.

As you may know, Glyn Davies wrote A History of Money - probably the best orthodox history of money around. In his Giro book, Davies gives us not only a detailed account of the Giro in Britain in the 60's and very early 70's, but also the history of the previous failed attempts to establish it. He points out how important the Giro was in other countries and traces its origins back ancient Egypt 3500 years ago. The word Giro, he tells us, comes from the Greek 'Guros' meaning ring or circle. He even gives Gyges - of whom I make much of elsewhere on this blog - a name-check as the inventor of coinage.

Aside from placing the Giro in historical context, what Davies does is to put the more recent attempts to establish it in Britain in a political context. Here, he exposes the political dynamics underlying, what Davies sees as, the frustratingly long gestation and difficult birth of the British Giro. Of course, the successful, efficient and cost-effective administration of a Giro system is dependent on the level of technology that underpins it. And the Giro was finally realized in the white heat of Wilson's technological revolution. But, and this is the central thrust of Davies' book, the key dynamics both preventing and encouraging the Giro's manifestation were political, social and economic. They were about the political will of the left versus the interests of capital and the private banks.

That, in itself, is a fascinating story. Albeit, one that needs to be read with caution. Davies' book was completed just five years after the Giro was launched. It was still a political football at the time. So the arguments must be considered with that in mind. For example, when the Left emphasizes the technological efficiency of the scheme, are they really just seeking to distract from its true political intent and implications? Was the Giro a means to wrestle power from Capital, rather than a technological end. Similarly, the complaints against the Giro need to considered carefully. The vested interests of the Right could easily be buried under talk of the potential deflationary effect of the Giro on the 'money multiplier'.

If you're interested in the political shenanigans, but dubious about the Giro's role as a weapon of class warfare, have a listen to this talk (scroll down to bottom of page for podcast #01) given to the Postal Archive by the late Tony Benn in 2008(?). Tony Benn was postmaster general in the period leading up to the launch and the chief political architect of the Giro. He said it's one of the key achievements of his career.

A look inside the Giro HQ at Bootle (No Sound)

When the Giro was launched a penny was still a large bronze coin about an inch across that sat full-weight in the palm of your hand. We had shillings, and a money amount was declared in the form £/s/d as it had been, in practical terms, forever. But alongside money's solidity, there existed a countervailing trend. For the general population - rather than just bankers and the rich - it had only been fifty odd years since the arrival of the Bradbury note; the first widely used bank note. Across a generation or two - and two world wars - monetary-media were dematerializing. The Giro, in this sense, could be viewed as the next stage in this process.

Yet, really, it failed. It didn't become the dominant system it's architects had hoped and that trend of dematerialization (or the return to a non-material form of money if you're persuaded by David Graeber's account) did not play out. In the late 1960's, Britain wasn't ready to accept the Giro on masse.*

There are several possible narratives to explain this failure. The political narrative might talk about the bankers, their vested interests, and their clout with the political classes putting pay to a socialist project. Or a techno-economic narrative might mention the rise of credit cards and the competing efficiency gains in the private sector. There is also the socio-psychological narrative - one sure to irritate left-wing supporters of the Giro - that ultimately the Giro failed because it became most strongly associated with the unemployed. It was how benefits were paid. With credit card companies spending thousands on creating effective branding that linked 'ways of paying' to identity, having one's payment system linked squarely to society's disadvantaged neutralized any goodwill towards the Giro born of aspiration for modernity and the fetishizing of new technological solutions.

Card card companies meanwhile, were not shy of selling directly on sex.

But interesting as all this is to me, particularly with the importance I place on the relationship between sex and currency in our understanding of money, it was the philosophical rather then the erotic which brought the Giro back to my mind most recently.

I've just completed my reading of the articles in the Dodd/Ingham Currency/Money debate, with a reading of Nigel Dodd's On Simmel’s Pure Concept of Money: A Response to Ingham. To attempt the dangerous task of summarizing the paper in a sentence; its about how money is not an empirical entity, but a regulative ideal built around an un-achievable perfection.**

What chimed with me in the paper, and set my mind back to thinking about the National Giro, was the following quote. It's from a review, written at the birth of the C20th, by G H Mead of Georg Simmel's The Philosophy of Money which Nigel quotes in support of the idea of a correspondence 'between the perfect society (as opposed to the perfect society) on the one hand, and a perfect money (as opposed to a perfect money), on the other.'***
Under ideal conditions... there would be no necessity that money should have any inherent value. It would be only an expression of the relation between the values of goods stated in the form of a fraction. Money would be purely symbolic... ...The failure to reach the ideal is the result of the instability of the community to make its equation between its different goods and the sum complete and perfect. In the presence of this uncertainty the individual reverts instinctively, especially in periods of panics, to an equation between the commodity and an intrinsically valuable thing. That money still has, to some degree, independent value is an indication of our failure to reach completely the ideal of economic organisation.
GH Mead Review of Philosophie des Geldes in D.Frisby Georg Simmel: Critical Assessments (1994) p. 144-6 quoted in Nigel Dodd On Simmel’s Pure Concept of Money: A Response to Ingham (2007)

This idea explored in the paper was then further reinforced in my mind at the lecture Nigel gave with Keith Hart at the LSE on Money Burning Day (that's 23rd October for the uninitiated). If you listen from around 34 mins to 36 mins Nigel talks about two trends; utopian and capitalistic. So on the one hand you have social and political reformers with schemes like LETS, timebank, or bitcoin trying to reform money for some Utopian ideal, and on the other you have payments companies like Paypal, Applepay or Square transforming money's infrastructure in their pursuit of profit. 

So I wondered how the Giro could be seen in the light of this. It was certainly an inclusive rather than an exclusive project. That word 'exclusive' is immediately associated in my mind with adverts for high-end credit cards whose promise was access to a special world of privilege. Giro on the other hand was inclusive. It was about giving the majority of the population access to banking services. It's easy to forget that in the 1960s most people didn't have a bank account.

But what's striking to me is this odd mix between the utopian ideals of the Giro, and perfect money. In the postal archive talk from Tony Benn (above) it seems clear to me that he regards money as essentially the creation of a debt by the treasury. All money requires for its existence is a certain set of beliefs about money and political will. However, at the same time, the accounting certainty of the Giro and the fact that once entering into the system money would become more or less positive meant that as a system it would be non-fragile. In his talk Benn claims that the Giro would have weathered the financial storms of 2008 far better than the banks. So in this sense money is more akin to a commodity (albeit one imagined into existence by a sovereign authority rather than dug up from the ground) that flows intact around a system built originally as a means to an ethical end. 

All this is contradictory. It's true that both left and right have, in the past. built a image of economy around commodity money. But to build a system to maintain money's value and enhance its speed of flow works to increase the monetisation of society. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Certainly it seems more atuned to libertarian ideals than socialist ones. It seems more Maggie Thatcher than Tony Benn. And yet Tony nurtured it, and Maggie killed it. It's all a bit odd.

I suppose, taking a positive view, rather than contradictory and confused, one could equally say the Giro was pragmatic and conceptually-polygamous. 

After Nigel's lecture last week, I went into the LSE foyer to buy his book. It was £24.95. I pulled out £25 in cash and paid. The girl taking the money look perplexed. She had a hushed and hurried conversation with her colleague after which it became apparent that the five pence change wouldn't be forthcoming. Everyone else had their cards out to pay. The booksellers hadn't thought about people paying in cash. Back when I used to run my market stall the bane of my life was getting to the bank before 4pm on a Friday to get a tenners worth of pennies for change. My workers would hate having to tell the punters 'sorry, no change' and the punters would hate to hear it.

During the lecture a figure was quoted that nowadays only 3% of all transactions are in cash. This no doubt pleased the representatives of the payments industry present and who tend to see cash as a menace. That people who earn their living from forms of electronic payment want an end to cash should be of no surprise. But I want to stand up for cash. Not just because I'm a paranoid cash-dealing dodgy ex-bankrupt ex-market-trader van-driving money-burner. But because cash has been good to me. When the banks give you the cold shoulder because of your bankruptcy and you still have to feed, cloth and keep a roof over the heads of your family - then, cash is your friend.

The undercurrent that the future will be cashless is strong at any gig addressing the 'future-of-money'. Cash gets a bad rap. As if somehow the not being of cash, will in itself manifest the future. But as Nigel was at pains to point out, pluralism is the key to the future of money, not cashlessness. I'd go a little further. I'd say that cash is money's default setting. That the birth of cash from the Gygian tryst (as recounted by Herodotus) marks a critical moment in the manifestation of Money within mind. We can no more rub cash out, than we can escape being sex-mad monkeys. (Although that won't stop people trying)

Cash is a bulwark against a Utopian dream turning into a Dystopian nightmare.

When pursuing his vision of Utopia, Tony Benn had many struggles. His goal of establishing the Giro had to be realized with backing from the Treasury whom, it was stressed to him, really didn't want to upset the Banks. That was difficult enough. But the prospect of bringing in legislation may have forestalled the Giro for good. Benn found a way round this (he talks about it at 44min into the podcast). He presented an argument that went like this. If he said, as postmaster general, he'd instructed the post office's cable-laying ships to cease cable-laying and instead catch fish, would it be legal for the fish they caught to be sold through sub-post offices? The answer was 'Yes'. And so, on this strange legal whimsy, the Giro was born without the need for legislation.

Now imagine a different scenario. Imagine the answer was 'No'. Benn gets Wilson's backing to push through the legislation. The Giro becomes a project on which big reputations rest. Uptake is poor. The banks want it buried. The solution lies in getting rid of bank notes and pushing all transactions of £1 and above through the Giro. The legislation is passed. Cash is banned. The IMF bailout is avoided. The oil crises ridden out. Cash alternatives are outlawed. By 1984, it really is 1984.

There is very little that's perfect about cash. Technologically - certainly these days - its a poor primitive solution to transferring money. And yet it works. It balances freedom and equality in a way that electronic payments have not successfully replicated. So far, anyway. It should never be killed.

We'll be sad if there's nothing to burn.


* Odd that huge changes were soon to be wrought upon the form and denomination of British currency that came with decimalization in 1971. There was resistance to this among the general public but no free choice about whether to accept it or not. I wonder if anyone was in favor of making the Giro an 'imposed' electronics payments solution.

** For me, there is something almost theological in this conception which resonates with my own metaphysical commitments to Value, Money and Mind. However, I don't want to get distracted by discussing any of that here.

*** I think the italicized emphasis actually works well to get across the meaning of these concepts but if you're unfamiliar with them this quote will help:
"Simmel contrasts the 'perfect society' with the 'perfect society'. The former contains what he calls a conceptual perfection, whereby each member of a society has a unique place within it. The latter consists of ethical perfection, wherein everyone is treated the same (Simmel, 2009: 51). To each form of perfection corresponds a form of equality : the perfect society favours individualism, the perfect society favours socialism."
Nigel Dodd Nietzsche's Money in Journal of Classical Sociology 13(1) p. 51 (2012)
Perfect money and perfect money can be understood along similar lines of conceptual versus ethical perfection. Chapter Eight of 'The Social Life of Money' (Nigel Dodd's new book) deals with these ideas at length.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Money Wisdom #301

"Simmel’s concept of money is not an empirical entity. Rather, it is a regulative ideal which corresponds to the abstract notion of a ‘perfect society’ that Simmel explores in ‘How is society possible?' "

Nigel Dodd On Simmel’s Pure Concept of Money: A Response to Ingham in European Journal of Sociology / Volume 48 / Issue 02 / August 2007 pp. 273

My Review of 'The Social Life of Money' by Nigel Dodd

This review is on Amazon right here. If it truncates your blockchain please do pop over there and give it a thumbs up. Ta.

I’ve reviewed a lot of books on money.

But I’m not an academic. If you want an academic opinion on ‘The Social Life of Money’ there are plenty of endorsements from the most respected academics on the back cover of this book. And if the academic status of those positively reviewing a book is your criteria for judgement, the decision is an easy one. Keith Hart says its ‘the most comprehensive book on money’ he’s ever encountered.

So in this review, I wanted to find a way to evangelize about ‘The Social Life of Money’ that might appeal to those who either, don’t find the prospect of a treatise on theories and ideas about money that exciting, or perhaps, feel that there is little they could learn about money from an academic sociologist.

I offer you a five point evaluation that I hope will persuade you.

Firstly don’t expect answers. There is no final reveal. Dodd is firmer on what money is not, than what it is.

Secondly, this is a book of theory. It demands an imaginative reader. It brings together ideas on the nature of social reality with money that I’ve never read anywhere else. So at some point, regardless of your intellectual heritage, you will be challenged to imagine something new.

Thirdly, despite the well-deserved high praise for the clarity and skill with which Dodd writes, reading it demands attention. It’s not going to be easy, so be prepared.

Fourthly. This is tricky. I’ve read and reviewed Dodd’s first money book ‘The Sociology of Money’ (1994) and his journal articles on money. And of course this book. What fires me up about his work - and this is very evident in the ‘Social Life of Money’ - is his focus on questions of money and epistemology, and money and ontology. Money is a difficult subject for lots of reasons. But one crucial one is that the very tools we use to examine, measure and build a picture of our universe are born of money. So when we use them on money, we are turning them in on themselves. What we see is a reflection. Dodd understood this really early on. And so, over time he has been able to journey outside this hall of mirrors. The Social Life of Money is his best description of his view from outside. With him, we can see how knowledge and money are intertwined, and glimpse through this something deeper about its nature.

Fifth and finally. Vital to the book is the way Dodd thematically breaks it into chapters. There’s little point in me listing out those themes here. They only really make sense after you’ve read it. Don’t expect a text book - that’s not what this is. Rather what the themes do is create an organic taxonomy for money and perhaps, a new way of ordering our thoughts about it.

I can’t bring myself to say this is the best book on money yet written. That would somehow put it above Marc Shell’s ‘The Economy of Literature’, James Buchan’s ‘Frozen Desire’ as well as Keynes, Marx, etc and of course above Georg Simmel’s classic ‘The Philosophy of Money’. That wouldn’t feel right, of course. But what I can say is that if we were in a library with every book on money that had ever been written and you asked me which one you should read first, I’d say ‘The Social Life of Money’ by Nigel Dodd.

It’s that good.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

From Stick to Staff

[This post is 6.8K words. Here's a PDF if you prefer]

If you've arrived at this page looking for information about walking up Snowdon, you may just want to scroll down to the section with the big bold heading Details of the Snowdon Walk. There you will find a fairly straightforward account of a walk taken on the last weekend of September 2014. We ascended via the Rhyd Ddu path, descended two thirds of the way down the Ranger path, and then cut across the foot of the mountain, using a public footpath that runs through the old quarry, back to our start point. My online researches couldn't find an account of a route that allowed you to use different paths up and down the mountain without the need to catch a bus, or walk an extra couple of miles, at the start or end of your hike. So I hope the description of this one proves useful.

What this post is really about though, as the title indicates, is a journey of a different sort. It's about a stick becoming a Staff.

Those familiar with my blog will know that I write 'rambles' on Money. Posts are titled for example, A Ramble on Ingham's Nature of Money, or A Ramble on Derrida and Money Burning, or A Ramble on an LSE Democracy talk with David Graeber & Craig Calhoun, etc. I use the word 'ramble' metaphorically, equating it to a journey of thought through a mindscape of ideas about money.

Here though, metaphor is abandoned. The journey is real. There's rocks and streams and other mountain things. And so too is the mindscape. It's not academic abstractions on the nature of money, rather it's simply my thoughts and feelings about events in my life. They seem real enough to me. And crucially, my mindscape is the stick's primary territory.

Money has not been abandoned, though. What I'm hoping is that if my story can offer a glimpse into the becoming, of a stick to a Staff, it may also reveal something about Money and its becoming.

So, to begin at the beginning.

When Sally and I separated last year, I got possession of a stick. Despite it's crookedness, it functions surprisingly well as a walking stick, the contours of it's top-knot making a handle that snugly fits your palm. Where it came from is something of a mystery. To me, it looks like a piece of driftwood bleached smooth. I like to think it came from Traethgwyn, near New Quay but if I'm honest I can't really remember. Sally is less convinced of its aquatic origins and thinks instead it might have come from a local dog walk, possibly the Two Woods Walk at Old Knebworth in Hertfordshire. But she isn't too sure, either. It is a stick of uncertain origins.

I'm also not sure of when the journey from stick to Staff really started.

I'd already taken it on a pilgrimage of sorts. At the end of summer 2013 the stick went with me to Wales where I retraced my grandfather's footsteps. Sometime in the late 1940's or 1950's, he'd painted a picture of the bridge at Llanina and I wanted to visit the very spot on which he'd stood to do so. That picture is at my mother's. On a wall in my home, just a few feet from where I'm sat typing now, is his painting of New Quay (see below).

Stood where my grandfather was, if you turn your head a quarter to the right so you are facing North, you can, on a clear day across the Cardigan Bay, see the coastline arc all the way round to the Llŷn Peninsula. On one fine day of my holiday, I was sat just stone's throw and sixty-odd years from my Grandfather, reading Norman O Brown's Life Against Death. My mind fizzing from Brown's theories of time, money and the sacred, I looked up from the book, across the Bay and could see clear-as-day the distant peaks of Snowdonia swelling-sore above the horizon.

Life Against Death is a very important book for me. There was something about the reading of it. I'm more open to the idea now that you not only get meaning from the words and their particular arrangement, but also, too, the conditions of reading can profoundly influence your experience of meaning. And those ways of understanding meaning can reflect upon one another, merging, transforming, and deepening meaning still further. I've made a similar point before about Glyn Davies' magisterial A History of Money which I read on Jersey during a trip to see the solar eclipse.

I'd imagine that a forensic, evidence-based examination of events would likely point to my reading of Alan Moore's biography Magic Words as a key factor in establishing my intentions in respect of the stick. Alan Moore carries a Staff (or maybe he refers to it as a stick, I'm not sure) with a handle carved like a snake's head. It symbolizes his worship of Glycon, a second-century Macedonian snake god. After reading the book, I did a post Alan Moore and Me and in it reflected on my trip to Wales. I say that I took the stick with me to ensure it was brimful of magical energy, and I speak about my idea for marking it with my little money-mantra "Money is the AND between the One and the Many". And also my plan to inlay a coin (above) from my childhood collection into the handle. But I never refer to it as a Staff.

I'm not sure it's actually possible to pin-point the start of the journey from stick to Staff.

What I'm inclined to believe though, strange as it may sound, is that an agglomeration of mindscape events, past and future, were resonant to me in the moment I looked up toward the distant Snowdon. That's when the possibility of knowing - that the stick had to go up the mountain - was mapped onto the mindscape. I'm not even saying I discovered it consciously at that moment. Just that I might have, if I'd thought about it.

There are other ways to conceive of it, of course. For example, you might prefer to believe that the Staff is eternal and that events can somehow and sometimes conspire to enable our perception of its true eternal nature. Once perceived, we seek to return some balance to the universe by manifesting something of the infinite, universal, or eternal within the appearance of the stick or by the way we in which we treat it.

However, if you think a Staff is just a fancy stick with a good story attached, logically, you're on dodgy ground. There's a phrase beloved of historians and economists alike - 'necessary but not sufficient'. It applies here. Creative carving, mystical markings, and tall tales are generally thought necessary for a stick to be considered a Staff. But they are not sufficient. What's missing has to do with the Staff's relation to mind - or, as I prefer to say, the mindscape.

With an early start on the Saturday, perhaps unwisely, I'd agreed to do some Friday night overtime. If it all went to plan I'd be finished at midnight. It didn't go to plan. The Hills Road, which runs south from Cambridge city center, presented me with the toughest of the evening's van driving challenges. Like some poor miscreant Padawan, eventually I was forced to pull over, call my customers, apologize for my tardiness and beg their forgiveness. As a van driving Jedi, I found this most humiliating.

The first customer after the Hills Road hold-up had booked the dreaded tea-time slot when late deliveries and hungry stomachs can combine to create, as my corporate masters might say, 'a challenging delivery environment'. But the lady customer could not have been more forgiving. On the doorstep, I was apologizing yet again for my tardiness when she insisted it was she who should feel sorry for me.

"Oh, you poor man," she said gesturing to me to place the bags of shopping on her doormat. "You'll get home so late."

"Well, I wouldn't mind, but it's a bit annoying tonight, as it goes. I'm going away this weekend. Early start in the morning".

Adjusting my stance and balance, I concentrated my gaze upon the doormat. I leaned forward and placed the bags down with an exaggerated gentility, pausing for just a second, still gripping the handles, while gravity's action upon the contents of the bag reached a locally static equilibrium. I looked up. Smiled. Then, as if I had done it ten thousand times before (which I have), my right hand reached down into the large side pocket of my trousers and pulled out a triple folded receipt, flicking it open using my thumb and forefinger and presenting to her in one motion.

"All there. Nothing missing." I said.

Our brief exchange was close to its conclusion. "Wherever you're going," she said, "I hope you have a lovely time."

"Oh, thanks. It's Snowdon."

"Magic !"

When my deliveries were done I made my way back to the yard. There are around two hundred numbered bays. Any van could go in any bay, it depends on when you get back and how the Vehicle Inspectors decide to fill them up on the night. 

I was late back so it was already pretty full. The Vehicle Inspector checked me in and then said "Stick it there, mate" pointing to a solitary empty bay in a long line of neatly parked Mercedes vans. It was bay number 23.

I could be making this up. But I'm not.

So Saturday morning came around fast.

Up at 5.23 am sharp, I showered, made a cafetiere of proper coffee which I transferred into my travel mug and put Sunday's packed lunch into one of the ruck sacks. I'd already packed the rest of what we needed into the boot of the Berlingo on the Thursday night, including the stick-soon-to-be staff. I set off for Royston. Then, two minutes later, I returned home to fetch my wallet - weird that, I never forget my wallet. At Royston, I picked up my daughter and her boyfriend, and then on to Leicester, to meet my son at the railway station. From there on to Conwy Falls Cafe for lunch.

I discovered the Conwy Falls Cafe when I was tour managing. The act I worked for at the time used to get seasick, so he'd fly to Ireland rather than come with the rest of us on the ferry from Holyhead. On one such trip I was set to return from Ireland alone. It was, if I remember correctly, a TV appearance rather than a gig so there was no crew just me, the artist who'd get seasick, and his drummer, Dan. But Dan hated flying. He would avoid it as much as he could. On this occasion he'd flown into Ireland directly from Sweden, and so jumped at the chance to cancel his flight back to the UK for the next show and return instead with me on the ferry. From the Holyhead ferry the most scenic route, and the best one if you're heading anywhere in the south of England, is down the A5. Follow it far enough and you'll end up at Marble Arch.

I don't miss much from those tour managing days. I always felt marginally guilty that I'd just stumbled into it hoping to earn a few quid whilst enjoying a lot of free time between jobs, when I could read my money books and do a bit of writing. Needless to say, it didn't work out like that. The jobs became more and more demanding and took up far too much mental space. I think its fair to say, that for many of my colleagues, working in the music business was a vocation. It's one that can easily become your whole life. Kids are missed, friends become family, marriages split up. What I think keeps drawing people to it - other than a love of music - is the reflected glory and the buzz of showtime. But, as I say, I don't miss any of that. Much. I do miss Dan the Drummer, though.

As it goes, Dan figures in the apotheosis of 'van driving journeys I have made'. The details of it are in this 'travelogue of summer 2010', but basically I drove from Dan's hometown, Åmål in Sweden - a small town made famous by a film called Fucking Åmål -  all the way to Codicote in Hertfordshire. Twenty-two hours, 1100 miles, seven countries. I find it uncanny that the awesomeness of a journey like this is so utterly unremarkable. Even during the journey, the journey disappeared into nothing. When I reached Hamburg I found myself thinking "nearly home".

If early one morning long ago the ancient Celtic-Jon, had said to the ancient Viking-Dan, "I shall be near Londinium an hour after the sun sets", Viking-Dan would have thought Celtic-Jon a liar, or else a magician able to summon a dragon and ride it there. Actually, it's quite likely that Viking-Dan would have been able to entertain both those possibilities simultaneously.

All of this, I could happily have talked about with modern-day-Dan without so much as a raised eyebrow or wry smile between us. But on the occasion of our drive from Holyhead down the A5, we weren't saying much. There was something distinctly primal dominating both our thoughts. By the time we were an hour or so into our journey from the ferry, Dan broke the silence to declare in his authentic Swedish-Chef-accent "Now, I'm a rearerly hungerarey". It was just at that very moment we happened across the Conwy Falls Cafe.

As my young companions and I pulled into the car park in the September sunshine, my Daughter chirped up "Do you know we're quite close to my favorite place in the world? Portmeirion is only twenty miles away." Saying so at that very moment was prescient, uncannily coincidental, or both.

My grandmother used to tell me to be wary of North Wales "Oh," she'd say, "They're a bit funny up there." So, Portmeirion doesn't figure strongly in my own mythology, but it does in Sally's - forming her childhood holiday memories - so, in turn, despite my Grandmother's warnings, our children are imbued with a sense of the place and have visited it on several occasions. The white building housing the Conwy Falls Cafe (pictured above*) was designed by Clough Williams-Ellis, the very same famous Welsh architect who designed Portmeirion.

What makes it special is not only its heritage, and not even the home cooked food, friendly service, and reasonable prices, but the fact that just a short walk into the woods that border the Cafe's garden is a deep river valley with the gorgeous waterfall that gives the cafe its name.

After lunch, we took in the falls and followed the trial through the woods for a twenty minute leg-stretching walk. Then we got back in the Berlingo and pressed on to Dinas Emrys, just another thirty-five minutes drive away.

Dinas Emrys is wrapped in mythology. It's a particularly pertinent mythology for me. I have on my upper left arm a tattoo of two dragons, one red one white, locked together in (a sort of) combat. The legend says that as a boy Merlin was brought to Dinas Emrys by King Vortigern. Vortigern was trying to build a tower that kept collapsing and his Druids had told him that sprinkling the blood of a fatherless child on the foundations would solve the problem. Merlin was the fatherless child. But once at the site Merlin told Vortigern why the tower kept collapsing. Beneath the tower, he claimed, was a pool. And within that pool were two urns, one containing a red dragon and the other a white dragon. The pool, said Merlin, was emblematic of Vortigern's world and kingdom.

"The red dragon", said Merlin to Vortigern, "is your Dragon. The white Dragon is that of the Saxons."

Vortigern's men dug down and soon discovered a pool containing two urns. As the urns were opened two dragons flew out and began to fight. Eventually the red dragon won and chased the white dragon away. Merlin's life was spared, and the Druids put to death. So it goes.

Dinas Emrys** seemed then, like a good place to take my fatherless stick.

We took a walk up the hill to see the ruins, taking in the splendid wood carvings along the way as well as pretty little streams and waterfalls. It took us an hour  - maybe an hour and a half - and served as a good warm up for the following day's exertions.

It also served to open up the stick to the transformative possibilities of being atop a mountain.

The only dog I've owned (which seems like such a crass way to describe one's relationship with a dog) was called TD. He was a wolfhound/deerhound cross. He was a big dog, a little skinnier than a wolfhound but tall and very fast; at least he was in a straight line, cornering was something of an issue for him. I got him from a rescue center. Apparently whoever had him as a pup had failed to consider that he would grow quite so much. But I wanted a big dog. I'd been violently robbed of my Christmas market takings and wanted some back up. Although I'd tried to resist the attack, a big spray of ammonia directly into my eyes and up my nose had temporarily blinded me and made breathing tricky. The rage the robbery inspired or released - I'm not sure which it is - was unquenchable. My big dog was to be part of my armory. I both feared and longed for a re-occurrence.

The children were very small at the time. Although TD was a very gentle dog, I felt that I had to dominate him. A snarl or growl at the children - no matter what they did to encourage it - would be harshly met. I regret this now. I wish I'd had more confidence in his spirit. He'd had a rough start to his life. Much of it had been spent in small cage which must have been torture for a dog that loved more than anything else to run freely. Thankfully, working with me on the markets he was able to indulge his passion. The markets were held on old airfields. Most times we'd turn up in the lorry the night before to set up the stall. It was big one selling music, videos, books and any similar lines that I could get cheap. As soon as the air-handbrake made its 'Pssssst' sound TD would be ready to go. The door would be opened for him and he'd be off. He had complete freedom to roam as he liked over a couple of square miles. Once the framework of the stall was set up we'd give him a shout for his supper. He'd come bounding back, eat, and then he'd be off again for another hour or two before we'd call him for bedtime. I think then, he was the happiest dog in the world.

I recall two incidents in particular. One, when a guy who worked for me was driving at thirty miles an hour along the airfield in his car, only to be passed by a grinning TD who then accelerated away from him. And another, when TD had been off on his explorations for an hour or two. There were a couple of other people who stayed overnight and TD would go to see them, getting snacks and attention. He was well known and well liked. This particular night, a car I hadn't seen before was driving around the market suspiciously. I was keeping an eye on it when it drove towards my lorry pulling up just in front and to the right of it. His headlights were on full beam and his engine still running. I locked my doors and wound down my window a few inches. "What you after, mate?" I shouted. The driver began to wind his window down. When the gap was about six inches, TD bounded out of the darkness and shoved his head through. The car driver shat himself. "Jeesus !" was about all I could make out. I called TD off and he came immediately. It turned out the guy was just an unfortunate minicab driver who'd been called out to the airfield to pick up one of the overnight workers.

When TD was about seven - we weren't too certain of his exact age - I noticed a tiny lump just above his right front paw. I took him to the vets, thinking nothing of it. It just so happened that he was something of specialist in larger breeds. I'll never forget the look on the vet's face. As far as he was concerned that little lump was a death sentence.There were tests to be done of course, but he wanted me to consider that I'd have to have TD put down. I railed against it. He was such a loyal dog and gentle spirit. It cost me far more money than I could afford, and the vet had to spread the cost for me, but I took the option of having his leg amputated hoping that the cancer would not have spread. For a few days after the amputation I regretted it as TD was so very depressed. Soon enough though, his spirits lifted and he was running around again on three legs almost as well as he had done on four. But within six months his health deteriorated. He got to the stage where he found it an effort to go out in the garden. One evening I bought him a whole chicken all to himself. I think he enjoyed the gesture more than the food. Soon after he collapsed. I lifted him into the back of the car and took him to the vets

I can clearly remember standing at the door of the vet's struggling to hold this huge dog in my arms whilst trying to ring the bell for the surgery. As soon as they opened the door, they cleared some space and then laid TD on the floor. He was very near death. We stroked him until finally he let out one last howl and passed. 

We stayed overnight in the Prince Llywelyn in Beddgelert (you say it be'th'gelert). Beddgelert means the grave of Gelert. This is the story as written on Gelert's tombstone which lies a short walk south of the village 
"In the 13th century Llewelyn, prince of North Wales, had a palace at Beddgelert. One day he went hunting without Gelert, ‘The Faithful Hound’, who was unaccountably absent.
On Llewelyn's return the truant, stained and smeared with blood, joyfully sprang to meet his master. The prince alarmed hastened to find his son, and saw the infant's cot empty, the bedclothes and floor covered with blood.
The frantic father plunged his sword into the hound's side, thinking it had killed his heir. The dog's dying yell was answered by a child's cry.
Llewelyn searched and discovered his boy unharmed, but nearby lay the body of a mighty wolf which Gelert had slain. The prince filled with remorse is said never to have smiled again. He buried Gelert here".

Details of the Snowdon Walk

We set off from our hotel in Beddegelert at 7.30am on Sunday morning, making the short drive to our starting point which was the car park on the south side of the village of Ryhd Ddu (you say it "rheed-thee"). Now, in deciding upon our route up and down Snowdon there was a problem - one we still hadn't resolved at this late stage. We wanted to ascend the mountain via one path, and descend it via another. The problem is that there is quite a distance between the beginning of one path and the end of another. The last thing you want to do after your hike up the mountain is walk at least another couple of miles along a road to get back to your car. The solution suggested online is that you park your car at your end point, and catch the Sherpa bus service, or even the train, to your start point. Well, that's great if the buses or trains are running at the times you need them. But this wasn't so for us on this Sunday.

The OS map - do buy an OS map - showed a footpath leading from two thirds of the way down the Ranger Path cutting across the quarry and leading back directly to the car park at Rydd Ddu. Armed with a compass and our weatherproof OS map we decided that we'd risk it. If worse came to worst, we'd go to the end of the Ranger path and call a taxi.

The Ascent - Rhyd Ddu

I parked my Berlingo in the Car Park just to the south of the village of Rhyd Ddu. The train stops there, it's well signed, and you can't miss it. Five quid for the day.

From left to right Amy (Daughter), The Stick-soon-to-be-Staff, George (Son),
and Stephen (Daughter's BF)
Our party was one reasonably fit 48 year old and three youngsters ranging from 21 to 24 all blessed with that annoying level of fitness you get in your youth and that you've never had to work for. Physically, the ascent was manageable. Psychologically though it was a bit more challenging. Around half a kilometer from the summit, things start progressively to get a little scary. The climax is where you walk around a little rocky outcrop and then are faced with a path a foot or two wide, and ten or fifteen yards long, going along the top of a ridge. There is fall to certain death either side of you. For us, the drop was partially obscured by mist and cloud cover which helped, and the wind wasn't too strong either. Do have a think if you can handle this before you choose the Rhyd Ddu path. Once past the very scariest bit though, the rest of the walk to the summit is relatively easy going.

Having said this, of the very few other walkers we saw on the Rhyd Ddu path (about 4 or 5 on this very fine day) one was a young girl of about ten years old, hiking with a well equipped adult. So I guess those more used to mountain terrain might scoff at us townies getting scared on a little hill.

The Summit

I haven't been up Snowdon since I was a teenager, so the whole Hafod Eryri visitor center on the summit of Snowdon was new to me. Whatever the right or wrongs of building atop a mountain, the center provided us with the best cup of tea in human history. All the food was fairly priced too. I went up Vesuvius as a teenager (in about 1981) where there was a stall selling Mars bars for the Lira equivalent of £1 (which was a lot of Lira). The usual price for a Mars bar in 1980 was 15 pence. The massive injustice of it still haunts me.

Anyway, in the visitor center you'll find stand-up tables where you're free to eat the packed lunch you've bought with you - none of this 'only food purchased on the premises' malarkey. The idea of standing up is good too. It's tempting to sit down, but a sure way to stiffen up before the descent.

Once I had tapped my stick on the very top of the busy summit, we began our descent.  

The Descent - Ranger Path 

The Ranger and the Llanberis (the easiest of all the paths) run together for the first few hundred yards alongside the railway track before the Ranger crosses over it and descends the mountain more steeply that the Llanberis. For quite a long way - about 45 minutes walking, I think - the Ranger path makes a fairly easy descent before there is a marginally more challenging section. For us veterans of the Rhyd Ddu path though, this was nothing.

Stephen taking in the view

Cutting across from the Ranger Path to the start of Rhyd Ddu

Now here's where it would have been helpful if I'd have taken a note of the OS map reference and a photo or two. But sorry, I didn't. When you're coming down the Ranger path you need to look for a stile on your left hand side that takes you up and over a stonewall. There is a badge on the stile giving the exact OS reference - its something close to SH 57430 55288 (I've tried to work it out with Grid Reference Finder)

The footpath is signed every few hundred yards with a yellow arrow on a pole. It's relatively easy to follow. The ground is quite boggy in places though, so be careful. I think this section of the walk took us just over an hour, maybe ninety minutes. It was really enjoyable though. We didn't see another soul until we crossed the railway track near the end. There is a very short climb over the mounds of discarded slate near the old quarry. And there are some streams that have to be hopped across via rocks although the larger streams have proper footbridges. On a lovely late September summer day none of this was a problem but, I imagine, in very wet conditions the path would be more of challenge.

Here is a map I traced out on Google of the route - start bottom left go round anti-clockwise. The exact distance is 8.6 miles (13.35 km), the ascent/descent of Yr Wyddfa is 2.936 feet (895m).

And here's the relevant section of my OS map showing the Rhyd Ddu path, the Ranger path, and the footpath joining them.

We had the best weekend ever doing this walk. It was really special. Good luck if you choose to take it on. I hope the weather holds for you.

So it was a great relief to our little party of orange-clad pilgrims to finally see in the late September sunshine the distant glimmer of my beautiful silver Citroen Berlingo. Closer still and we could see her flat wiper blades pressed snugly against the curve of her windscreen; rain-dispersing capabilities and aesthetic appeal in a heady mix of function and form. The French beauty parked peacefully and squarely with her round corners patiently awaiting the return of her those who now longed to be inside her.

We were happy to see the car.

And she must have been happy to see us. Or perhaps, the Staff was already enveloping us in some sort of magical field. Or else, it was all just pure coincidence. But the journey home seemed blessed. We did all that we needed to do. We stopped first at Glaslyn Ices in Beddgelert to quench our thirst. Then we drove. Down the A5 and into England. Burgers and toilet. Then onward. We arrived at Leicester station at 8.59pm. My Son took his bag from the boot, strolled calmly into the station, onto the platform and straight onto the 9.00pm train back to Sheffield, as if it he'd summoned it.

From there we retraced our route back to Royston to drop off my Daughter and her Boyfriend about an hour and a half later, at around ten thirty, quarter to eleven. From there I made the last leg of the journey home alone.

Me with the stick-soon-to-be-Staff. Taken at a rocky outcrop on Dinas Emrys over looking the valley

So now there exists in our material world a Staff where there was just a stick. It still looks like a stick, but it is imbued with magic. You can believe this, or not believe this. Or you can do as most people on planet Earth do and have done across the ages, you can do both things simultaneously and in complete contradiction.

The Staff also possesses, or at least shares with those around it, some form of momentum. It has, in some sense of the word, intent. The Staff will continue its journey of imbuement by standing upon the peaks of Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis. It now has a ritualistic rhythm to its existence that sets it apart from the slow organic decay of a mere stick.

I will attempt to make this extant temporal pathway visible on the body of the Staff. My task is to try through the carving, marking and inlaying of the Staff, to match corporeal reality with magical essence.

During the writing of this post I have found the name of the Staff, hidden in plain sight, as it should be. It is already taboo to refer to the Staff as a stick.This point was openly agreed among the pilgrims. Henceforth it is taboo to refer to the Staff as 'it'. An 'it' is a thing and the Staff is not a thing. So referring to the Staff as 'it' is not only taboo, it is factually incorrect. The Staff is beyond gender so referring to the Staff as he or she would also be wrong.

As I am in the fortunate position to be chosen by fate as the keeper of the Staff it is incumbent upon me to open my mind to possible future paths, both literal and metaphorical. It is my responsibility to determine whether or not it is in the interests of the Staff to reveal those paths to others. The Staff and the keeper of the Staff may have their secrets.

I thought about Bill Drummond for a moment when I was up the mountain. To anyone familiar with his writing, the precariously balanced pile of stones is the clear echo of a distant Drummond. And I'm thinking about him now, writing this. Of all of his Ten Commandments of Art, the one entitled 'Don't Make Punk Rock' resonates most strongly with me, and is also the one I'd love to delete (Number eleven of his Ten Commandments gives you the option of deleting one of them). 'Don't Make Punk Rock' contains the line, which should be applied to all art forms : don't join the dots.

I'm forever joining dots.

I have an urge to join the dots now. I want to work out in words why the story of TD is there, I want to write about duality, yin and yang. time and telos. The One and the Many. King Vortigern/Kurt Vonnegut. Sexy Berlingo. Orange jackets. Intent and Intentionality, Money and Currency. Gyges. The visible and invisible. The mundane and the profound. Dylan Thomas. 

I want to connect it all to Money for you

But no. I'll pay heed to Bill's words. And I'll restrict myself to just asking one question.

Is the Staff to a stick, as Money to a coin?

Well, one question and one quote - from what I was reading when I looked up across Cardigan Bay to Snowdon.
[T]he special attraction of gold and silver is due not to any of the rationalistic considerations generally offered in explanation but to their symbolic identification with Sun and Moon, and to the sacred significance of Sun and Moon in the new astrological theology invented by the earliest civilizations. Heichelheim, the authority on ancient economics, concurs on the essentially magical-religious nature of the value placed on gold and silver in the ancient Near East. Laum states that the value ratio of gold to silver remained stable throughout classical antiquity and into the Middle Ages and even in modern times at 1:13½. It is obvious that such a stability in the ratio cannot be explained in terms of rational supply and demand. The explanation, says Laum, lies in the astrological ratio of the cycles of their divine counterparts, the Sun and Moon.
       The history of money from this point of view has yet to be written. Greek money, which contributes to modern money the institution of coinage, was recognized by Simmel to be essentially sacred and to have originated not in the market but in the temple. Laum has amplified and established the thesis. But Simmel and Laum are confused by the illusion that modern money is secular, and hence they confuse the past by describing as 'secularization' a process which is rather only a metamorphosis of the sacred. Even Keynes perhaps shares this illusion, although he sees the real secularization of money as still lying in the future. The historian must doubt the possibility of having capitalism without gold fetishism in some form or other. At any rate, the historian must conclude that the ideal type of the modern economy retains, at its very heart, the structure of the archaic sacred. And once again the undialectical disjunction of sacred and secular is seen to be inadequate.
Norman O Brown Life Against Death (1959) p. 247-248

I didn't check the time when I finally arrived home but I am absolutely sure it was 23:23. By this stage of the journey the sychronicitous appearance of 23's was mundane.

And the mundane had become profound. On the final leg of my journey I achieved an almost transcendent level of satisfaction from the most mechanical and predictable of actions; just before I rejoined the A1(M) for the final twelve miles, I heard a buzz and a little yellow light appeared on the dashboard. It was the fuel warning light. The whole adventure - the whole journey from stick to Staff - had drained one full tank. Perhaps you have to spend eight hours a day behind the wheel of a van to appreciate the sense of completeness that this can lend to a journey. It was - or so I thought - a final gift. One personal to me where the giver is like a lover who knows just what to say and do.

The Staff at rest in the reliquary

But I was wrong. There was one more gift.

I was both vessel and witness to its giving, but the prestation was to the Berlingo, not me.

Sainte-Chappelle uncannily
 similar, isn't it? And French.
I think perhaps the Staff had come to regard the Berlingo as a kind of reliquary: a mobile Sainte-Chapelle. Maybe, by virtue of being the most valuable single object that has ever existed, the Crown of Thorns acts teleologically upon all other venerated wooden artifacts. After nearly eight hundred years of being kept inside the high stained-glass walled splendor of it's own, purpose-built, reliquary - the Saint-Chappelle built in the 1240's by King Louis IX - the Crown of Thorn's connection with its immediate surroundings is morphogentically transmitted to all wooden artifacts, forward and backward in time; like a perfect idea, that not only pulls-forth the thoughts that proceed it, but is also the basis for those that come after it. Any Citroen salesman worth his salt will sit you in the back of a Berlingo knowing that experiencing the bright and roomy interior is the best way to sell you the car. I guess to a wooden artifact one bright and roomy French interior is much like any other.  

Or, maybe the Staff just really liked being inside her. She is after all, a very sexy Berlingo. 

Whatever -- whether there was some deep sexual resonance between the Staff and the Berlingo, some sense that unity rather than separateness was their preferred state of being; or whether some mystical power emanating from the Crown of Thorns spread sacredness through the ether to those of similar material and psychical being; or indeed whether it is just incumbent upon the human brain to incessantly search for meaning in what is ultimately a chaotic and meaningless universe -- None of this is in contradiction to the fact of the matter, that when I took the Berlingo to the petrol station to fill her up, this happened.

3 times 23.
The SEX number.
The chaotic universe spewed forth meaning regardless of sentience. And it makes me wonder. Is it doing this the whole time?

My friendly forgiving lady customer on the Friday night had said, "Magic !". And she was right. It was a magical weekend in any sense you want to give the word. I'm very glad that I got to share it with George, Amy and Stephen.


* I didn't take this myself. I got it from a google search and its from here
** If you fancy taking the trip to Dinas Emrys Snowdon Heritage have an audio tour - we didn't the route described, opting instead for the harder walk red path which is shown on the map in the car park, but the audio tour is a good way to learn about some of the history.