March 20, 2015

Horse 1862 - Feeding The Furnance With Numbers

I work in an office. I have two walls that make up a work area and so my usual blinkered view is almost like that of one who works in a cubicle.
Under the flickering glow of fluorescent tubes, I crunch big numbers into little ones and assemble little piles of numbers into big ones, before pushing them into pigeon holes; ready for government agencies to play with and then assess what their portion of the pile is.
If I was the stoker of some grand furnace, my job would be to shovel fuel into the fire but even though I have no shovel, the metaphorical furnace still demands to be fed great piles of numbers.

Numbers, numbers, numbers; business, business, business. Burn, burn, burn; furnace, furnace, furnace.
Despite what you may think, the furnaces of numbers (which include the entire of the financial sector of the economy) produce nothing of real value. There isn't even some aesthetic beauty in the mathematics either. Most of it is arithmetic, which in terms of art is the equivalent of the restrooms in an art gallery. Yes, you do need restrooms in an art gallery but very few people go to an art gallery specifically to look at them (except for that one urinal on display in an art gallery which would have remained in the restrooms).

I believe that the sun is a flower,
Which blooms and glows for just one hour.
Within that hour I must depart,
To catch the sun and warm the heart.

Nine minutes away from the flickering glow of fluorescent tubes, is this:

If you ignore the furnaces for a while, if you let business burn on, on and ever on, if you set all of that aside for a second, if you just remove your shoes and walk along the beach, the firey furnaces burn cold in comparison to the gentle warmth of the autumn sun.
I don't know of anywhere else in Sydney where the distance from the bus stop to the beach is less than forty inches; yet I could in theory, visit this on any workday; to dawdle, to wander, to soak up that warmth.
So why don't I?
Like the stoker of some great railway engine, or down in the bowels of a steamship, where the passengers never go, if I don't keep the furnaces fed; if I don't keep shovelling great piles of numbers into the fire, we stop moving and the machine grinds to all halt. Business is brain powered and the fuel which keeps the machine moving, is numbers.

Once upon a time, when there were real stokers working in front of furnaces, the machine would claim some of their lives. Men's hearts would give out and expire, they would be burned to death or scalded if the fires escaped or the boilers exploded. I must remember that I do not suffer anything like those sort of risks at all and that the most injurious event that I can suffer on my worksite is maybe the odd papercut; for that I am thankful.
Nor do I suffer in the same way that garment workers do across South-East Asia, where the sorts of industrial accidents that are seen today are identical to those of one hundred years ago in the west; before the passing of adequate labour laws.
Even though my working conditions are a palace in comparison, I'm still acutely aware that I'm ultimately replaceable, that the winds of change can sometimes blow a gale, that the high seas of business can wreck  the ships of industry, and so the fires must be fed.

I look on in envy at people like bus and truck drivers, whose office has an ever-changing panorama to view; whereas I get to look at the same white wall, day in, day in. If I were to get a light meter, then certainly the reading for the level of light would change but that's nothing compared to the view out of someone's windscreen, with trees, other cars, buildings, the harbour, the bridge and the sunrise and sunset.
Bashing away at numbers in front of an unchanging white wall is not a lot different in spirit to the constant 580nm glow of sodium street lighting - unchanging, unwavering; forever static. It is bashing away at numbers though, which keeps the wheels of industry turning though. Numbers, numbers, numbers; business, business, business. Burn, burn, burn; furnace, furnace, furnace.

No comments: