Time, Labor, Balance

Okay! This is one of those posts where I give you seemingly unrelated quotes, and in the discussion we find what connections there might be between them. What a way to begin the New Year!

Time Is Money
"Remember, that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labor, and goes abroad, or sits idle, one half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expense; he has really spent, or rather thrown away, five shillings besides.[...]Remember, that money is the prolific, generating nature. Money can beget money, and its offspring can beget more, and so on. Five shillings turned is six, turned again is seven and threepence, and so on, till it becomes a hundred pounds. The more there is of it, the more it produces every turning, so that the profits rise quicker and quicker. He that kills a breeding sow, destroys all her offspring to the thousandth generation. He that murders a crown, destroys all that it might have produced, even scores of pounds."—Benjamin Franklin, as quoted in the summary of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism


The Time Spent Working
"[This is] a common problem that industrialists face when employing precapitalist laborers: Agricultural entrepreneurs will try to encourage time spent harvesting by offering a higher wage, with the expectation that laborers will see time spent working as more valuable and so engage it longer. However, in precapitalist societies this often results in laborers spending less time harvesting. Laborers judge that they can earn the same, while spending less time working and having more leisure."—Summary of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism


In Balance
The plaza filled with two lines of new dancers—a row of black-clad women and a row of men in white kilts—whose bodies beat a loud rhythm as they walked. Their chests were crisscrossed with lines of seashell bells. The two rows of dancers faced one another and stamped their feet, shaking the bells, crowding the air above the plaza with a loud, hollow clicking like summer insects. The men wore crowns of eagle feathers and the women wore spectacular wooden headdresses painted with stylized clouds and slanting blue lines of rain and green blades of corn. This was the corn dance, officially a summer prayer but danced at every important occasion, Loyd said, because you couldn’t pray it often enough.
“Most of the dances have to do with rain,” he said. “Here, that’s what everything hangs on.”
The beauty of the spectacle notwithstanding, I still felt outside of it. “So you make this deal with the gods. You do these dances and they’ll send rain and good crops and the whole works? And nothing bad will ever happen. Right.” Prayer had always struck me as more or less a glorified attempt at a business transaction. A rain dance even more so.
Loyd was thinking. After a minute he said, “No, it’s not like that. it’s not making a deal, bad things can still happen, but you want to try not to cause them to happen. It has to do with keeping things in balance.”
“In balance.”
“Really, it’s like the spirits have made a deal with us.”
“And what is the deal?”
“We’re on our own. the spirits have been good enough to let us live here and use the utilities, and we’re saying: We know how nice you’re being. We appreciate the rain, we appreciate the sun, we appreciate the deer we took. Sorry if we messed up anything. You’ve gone to a lot of trouble, and we’ll try to be good guests.”
“Like a note you’d send somebody after you stayed in their house?”
“Exactly like that. ‘Thanks for letting me sleep on your couch. I took some beer out of the refrigerator, and I broke a coffee cup. Sorry, I hope it wasn’t your favorite one’.”
I laughed because I understood “in balance”. I would have called it “keeping the peace,” or maybe “remembering your place,” but I liked it. “It’s a good idea,” I said. “Especially since we’re still here sleeping on God’s couch. We’re permanent houseguests.”
“Yep, we are. Better remember how to put everything back how we found it.”
It was a new angle on religion, for me. I felt a little embarrassed for my blunt interrogation. And the more I thought about it, even more embarrassed for my bluntly utilitarian culture. “The way they tell it to us Anglos, God put the earth here for us to use, westward-ho. Like a special little playground.”
Loyd said, “Well, that explains a lot.”
It explained a hell of a lot. I said quietly, because the dancers’ bells were quieting down, “But where do you go when you’ve pissed in every corner of your playground?”
I remembered Loyd one time saying he’d die for the land. And I’d thought he meant patriotism. I’d had no idea. I wondered what he saw when he looked at the Black Mountain mine: the pile of dead tailings, a mountain being cannibalized for its guts and soon to destroy the living trees and home lives of Grace. It was such an American story, it was hardly even interesting.
To people who think of themselves as God’s houseguests, American enterprise must seem arrogant beyond belief. Or stupid. A nation of amnesiacs, proceeding as if there were no other day but today. Assuming the land could also forget what had been done to it.—Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver p. 238-241

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