One dimension

A woman on the train is reading a horoscope page from a magazine. Why? Why does the magazine even go to the trouble and expense of commissioning them? After all editor, reader and pretty much everyone else since about the year 1780 know that they’re nothing but woo.

What, in the end, is that woman paying for? And why a woman and not a man?

The idea of money – the culture of assigning any ‘good’ a value at some point along a simple number line – has its benefits for sure. It brings us goods and information that we may otherwise never enjoy.

But where we’re not looking, something stealthy is at play.

We place ever more in our lives on that number line – either on the positive side (good food, great music…) or the negative: things we’d pay to avoid. We place things on that line that don’t belong there because in our haste to move in a positive direction along it we forget what else there is. We lose, without knowing it, the ability to appreciate – even to describe – everything else.

We lose all the other dimensions.

Superstitions – those little rituals that we go through though we can’t explain why – are like some kind of attempt to hang on to the world of those other dimensions. We observe them – always reluctantly as they appear so lacking in reason – because doing so gives us some extra connection with a broader landscape than the alienating one which we must navigate in daily life: the one that’s always owned by someone else.

That black cat is looking out for you. That first star in the evening sky is offering you the chance to pause and ask: what do I really want in life? That solitary magpie is warning you: steel yourself against some coming misfortune…

To take part in this is to believe that our surroundings are talking to us: that in some way they even care about us and that we ‘belong’. The Astrologer is extending this beyond the day’s landscape and into the night sky. Isn’t this, literally, priceless? Like love, or loyalty, or plenty of other things we can’t measure and therefore can’t own, it’s not on that number line at all.

Of course this doesn’t stop anyone in commerce trying to convince us all to the contrary. Think of all the adverts which mention the words ‘love’ or ‘loyalty’!

And finally why a woman? Perhaps, on the minus side, she’s even less likely than a man to own, or have much say over, the landscape or the time through which she moves. But on the plus side there’s still, even today, a little less social pressure on her to compete in this ‘number-line’ game: to conform to just the one dimension.

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