|Voyen Koreis; Author, Translator, Dramatist, Visual Artist, Illustrator, Designer
A Built-in Obsolescence
Three O’clock in the morning, I wake up. Sleeping is out, that’s obvious. I get up. I make some coffee. I turn on the computer. The thing is warming up for a while, suddenly there is a sharp cracking noise, the screen goes dark. I also can detect a whiff of smoke. Trying as I might, the screen remains blank.
In the morning I call the repair man. He arrives at noon, tries this and that. It could be this, but it could also be that, is his considered opinion. Perhaps even something else. In the end he takes the computer away. He rings the next morning, with the promise that he will ring again at noon. He does not ring at noon. Not even in the afternoon. The evening came, and he has not called yet. Looks like that almost certainly it would be something else.
The next day is Friday, the evening comes, and still no news. Tomorrow will be Saturday. Hopefully, the repairman works on Saturdays. I would really like to have that thing back with me.
Are you wondering how I write this? The old Remington machine it is not, even though it feels that way sometimes. I happen to have a spare computer. It’s ancient. At least four years old it must be now, if I’m correct. The one that has packed it up at three in the morning is nearly thirteen months old! Almost a month after the end of the guarantee! Things in these times, particularly those to do with computing, have something rather hard to describe about it, let’s call it “a build-in obsolescence”.
Well, we better come to terms with this. It shouldn’t be too difficult, though. We have it in us as well.
I was busy writing biographical study of a certain personality, and I needed to check on some data. This seems to be easy these days: one simply does it on the Internet. It came to me though, and probably not only to me I suspect, that this might be a great illusion. What if the information that one obtains there is not quite correct? What if someone, out of ignorance maybe, or perhaps even out of malice, uploads something there, perhaps saying that so and so lived in such and such year over there, in a little cottage made of marzipan? Idiots, like myself, will swallow it, hook and line! When I use such information that is, expressed in polite terms, excrementum tauri, and even pass it on, will I bear the responsibility? Who knows, such a thing might even become a family curse to be passed on up to the seventh generation! Or at least, until the truth prevails.
Veritas vincit. Truth conquers. These words have stood as a motto on the Presidential standard of the Czech Republic for almost a hundred years. Jan Huss had once written them in his letter to Jan of Renstein, and a couple of years he did so again in his letter to the professors of the Prague University, shortly before being put to burn at the stake by the Council of Constance. (This information may have come from the Internet, but I believe it to be safe.)
The idea is much older, however, at least two millennia older. This can’t be found in the Bible, but it is in the Apocryphal 3rd Book of Esdras, which the mediaeval scholars often cited. Flavius Josephus also mentions it in his book Antiquities of the Jews. Zerubabel, who was supposed to be one of the ancestors of Jesus, had stated in front of the king Darius that the king is not most powerful of all, that most powerful is the Truth! The Truth that is undying, inviolable, unperishable and honest, to which only one way leads that is worth a human effort. This was a brave statement, in front of the king by one of the leaders of the conquered nation. The words had been meant to remind the king of the promise made by his predecessor on the throne, Cyrus, that he will allow rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem that was burnt down by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar. The Truth had prevailed, Darius had complied with the promise given by Cyrus, and the Temple was rebuilt, to stand for another five centuries.
But is there anything older that would express the same or similar idea, I wondered.
In Sanskrit we find the words Satyan nasti paro dharmah. Nothing is greater than truth. This is a somewhat lose translation, mainly because it is so difficult, almost impossible, to translate the Sanskrit word dharma. It has so many meanings, one of them being similar to the Greek word nemesis, which means fate, something that cannot be avoided. Dharma too is something that has been firmly established, a law, but also a duty (moral), justice (of a higher order), religious belief and philosophy, etc. During the time Darius the Great occupied the throne in Babylon, the Indian upper classes had been speaking Sanskrit. But the same language was already spoken two thousand years earlier, as the scholars would confirm. Some of them even state that it was used even as early as the 5th Millennium BC!
Myself, I believe the truth to be even older than that. Much older.
A gross is equal to a dozen dozen, i.e. 12 × 12 = 144.
It can be used in duodecimal counting. The use of gross likely originated from the fact that 144 can be counted on the fingers using the fingertips and first two joints of each finger when marked by the thumb of one hand. The other hand is then used to count multiples of 12. Therefore, 12 countings of 12 equals 144. It is a simple counting system that can be practiced without paper or other marks.
My kidneys have been showing some signs of necessitating a thorough cleansing.
There are various methods recommended for cleansing one’s kidneys. Most involve drinking some awfully tasting juices elaborately prepared from weeds, etc. Fortunately, I remembered a far more agreeable and smart technique from way back. I was about eighteen when I found myself in a hospital, after having been shot into the upper leg on stage during a performance of Karel Čapek’s The Robber. At the time I shared the hospital room with a man in his forties, who had just had an operation for extracting stones from his kidneys. When he was about to be released, I clearly heard the recommendation the doctor gave him, to drink two bottles of Pilsener beer a day. A folk remedy, obviously. Nevertheless, I’ve heard it mentioned several times afterwards, though not after I came to live in Australia. The genuine Pilsener beer, which has been brewed in the Bohemian town of Plzeň for a couple of centuries, and which is the only one that can be used for this purpose (something to do with the local water, apparently), was very difficult to get here. And even if one was lucky enough to find some it was quite expansive. Until recently. I had noticed that my favourite liquor store had put on their weekly special the genuine Pilsener Urquel beer, and for a very good price. The soaring Aussie dollar probably had something to do with this. I said to myself:
„It’s time for you to start drinking the Pisener beer once again.“
On the way to the liquor store I pondered about how much of this remedy I should buy. It’s not likely to be offered this cheap for quite some time, I thought.
„One whole carton, that's two dozen? The Aussie dollar isn’t going to stay this high forever though, I better buy two cartons, or should I make it three?“
I got out of the car, it was close to midday, the Brisbane heat, thick and moist, had hit me square in the face.
„There is going to be a thunderstorm tonight, for sure! And there are at least two months of this sort of weather left, perhaps even three“, I mused, „a mere three cartons of beer are not going to last long. How about four cartons? Or even five?“
Then this ingenious thought came into my head.
„You‘d be seventy next year, and in you entire life you have not yet bought a gross. A gross of anything. So make it now the gross of bottles of Pilsener beer, six cartons!“
I wondered if I should ask for it in this manner, but one look at the girl behind the counter, who had piercings everywhere possible and probably impossible, told me that I should stick to asking for six cartons. Surely, she wouldn’t have understood if I asked her for one gross of Pilsener beer!
The regrets came already when I was on my way back home.
„Perhaps I’ve underestimated this young generation, maybe I should have asked for one gross!“
In any case, I have the whole gross of Pilsener beer to go through before I'll have another try...
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