Friday, September 04, 2009


It is a custom amongst the denizens of Atlantis, that in the month of the great heat, they should make it hotter by burning paper sacrifices. Quite apart from the effect on the ecology, these so-called 'hell money' events have a dubious theological effect as well. The problem is that simple translational symbolism is giving way to more formal thaumaturgy.

Let me explain. The concept behind this burning is that if your relative is in the afterlife, burning a representation of an asset (e.g. a car or some money) will translate that asset to the afterlife, thus enriching said relative. In the past, if you labelled a piece of paper "ONE MILLION DUCATS" and made it look reasonably presentable and burned it, your deceased would then be considered e-ducat-ed enriched to the tune of a million bucks.

However, in these days, the 'hell money' purveyors have learnt to make a quick buck by making ever more elaborate tokens. Now all the stuff looks like a literal representation, with very official gold leaf and such.

The point really is information. The bureaucracy of the local hell would appear not to be literalist but tokenist. Information transfer is effected by just telling the afterlife, "Ahoy there, a $1m token comes your way, prepare to receive." It doesn't matter what it looks like, as long as it's authentic. In this theological milieu, it really IS the thought that counts.

You don't need the fancy stuff. And you certainly do not need to generate foul vapours and smokes and then complain about the relatively natural smokes your neighbours produce.



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