Gold Mountain

Paul has just finished recounting a story that he thought he remembered the novelist Will Self telling a journalist about an analogy, purportedly suggested by James Joyce.

“The root of creativity is the combination of existing ideas. Take gold for example. It is a valuable metal, but it is a common concept. Most people feel they know what gold is. Take a mountain, suggestive of adventure and nature; it is still a kind of everyday idea. They are painted in the background of children’s pictures. But bring ‘gold’ and ‘mountain’ together and you’ve got a GOLD MOUNTAIN, something that mythology is built upon.”

Paul was now trying out this wondrous alchemy on the first things that came to hand, which happened to be a plastic container of vitamin D tablets and a pencil. To be specific a ‘H’ pencil, that is on the hard side of ‘F’ and two grades harder than ‘Hard Black’.

“So we buy and consume these tablets,” Paul began rolling the container in his palms, “because in this country in the winter we don’t get much sunlight. And so we take the tablets as a supplement, a supplement for something we lack.

“The name for a pencil actually comes from a word in French that means ‘little brush’. They were a training tool that would allow a person to learn the skill of the draftsman, but not be an artist per se.

“The Master would finish their works in beautiful Technicolor. The novice, in this academic tradition, on the other hand, could only represent their progress. They could not produce an image that could ever ‘capture the world’.

“This pencil is a ‘H’ pencil. Because it is hard, any rendering of the world I make with it seems to me to be insipid. So we’re back to the vitamin D pills: both these things seem to be about the lack of the ‘real’ quality of the sun.

“What do you get if you bring the two things together? ‘H D’, the code for our contemporary obsession with technological representation. So, I’m going to grind down loads of vitamin D pills and grind down loads of pencils and I’m going to mould them in to a new kind of composite material and form it into a gigantic flat screen TV.”

“That sounds great,” said Paul’s friend, “why don’t you make it?”

Paul looks at his friend in amazement, “Because, you fuck nut. I don’t have anywhere to keep a gigantic TV made from mushed up tablets and pencils.”

“That sounds great,” said Paul’s friend, “why don’t you make it?”

Paul looks haggard, his eyes flying at different angles from his red face. “Have you ever heard of time poverty? We’re all more and more busy with things. I work two jobs to earn enough money to be comfortable. I don’t have time to find a way to grind down all those pencils and all those pills in order to make a gigantic screen. I don’t have time to develop anything substantial, not even a train of thought. That, if I can be frank, is why I spend any free time I have with you getting pissed. At least then I can quash the ideas before they surface and make me want to achieve them. Alcohol and your conversation have the same benefit, they both cause long term brain damage.”

“That sounds great,” said Paul’s friend, “why don’t you make it?”

Paul sat back allowing a comfortable smirk to cut across his face. “I knew you were going to say that. Because that’s how we think isn’t it; that our creativity has to be made into some kind of object or commodity. We get suckered into that way of thinking. I obviously did too –that’s why I came up with the idea. But I don’t want to exploit the magic in that kind of way. I want to find a way to celebrate it but let it go. Like cutting your hair and watching it float away on the wind.”

“That sounds great,” said Paul’s friend, “why don’t you make it?”

Paulo kept his gaze on the ground, a river of sweat making its way down his wide, sunburnt face. “Because I remember the conquistadors who tried to forge paths through the Amazonian jungle in search of Eldorado. Exploited by their priests and politicians, driven by their greed, they left their homes and surrendered themselves to malaria and dysentery. The world has hardly known such godforsaken creatures, they even went so far as to try eating one-another. Those who search for something as other-worldly as the Gold Mountain ultimately die at its feet.”


Linked to the Daily Post: Karma Chameleon


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