“He knows,” said my mother, her voice gravelly with disapproval, “The price of everything and the value of nothing.” I doubt she knew where the quote came from nor would she have cared. I was quite young when I first heard her say those words, but I would hear it through out my life and find myself saying the same words through my life.
It applies to money, of course. But it’s the leading edge of a philosophy … that a price tag is not equivalent to value. In its simplest form, many “luxury” items are wildly overpriced. The monetary amount you pay to own them has no relationship with the actual usefulness or aesthetic value of the thing itself. It is just a “thing” and it will get old, go out of fashion, break down, become landfill.
And then there’s the philosophical point-of-view. What’s the price for an old friend and is there an app for that? Can you get one on Amazon? How about a sunrise? Do you have to buy it outright or can you rent it for a day or a season?
What’s the price of admission for a hike up the mountain with your dogs? The monetary set point for a day spent peacefully in the company of the one person in your world who make you feel beloved and beautiful?
And if things go badly with you or someone you care deeply for … is there a price you’re wiling to pay to be there when everything is dark and nothing feels good?
As I’ve gotten older, price has lost most meaning — outside the mundane tags in the grocery stores of the world. What we pay for that which matters are never numeric. Blood and soul, time and caring set the price.
What mother meant? If you know the price, but have no real understanding of value, you can spend everything, every penny you’ll ever have — and have nothing.
The meeting of the secret Political Action Committee formed by the King Brothers was about to conclude and no one was happy. Two years earlier they had planned to capture the Congress and then the Presidency. As luck would have it, they also saw the possibility of controlling the Supreme Court as well.
“Just imagine it,” Chauncey King said to his brother before the meeting, “we could control all three branches of government. If that old guy did not drop dead at our resort last month, he would have given us what we needed.” They still hoped to delay the next justice until they could actually influence the appointment.
While the Political committee had done a great job in the off-year election, their negative messages were beginning to backfire. Since they had been telling the public for years that the capitol was a problem and the President’s party had to go, people naturally began to hate the workings of the capitol politicians, including many of their special congressmen.
Worse yet, the few they felt they could support for President were well behind in the polls and dropping out one by one. A rogue candidate, not of the regular party, was leading in the caucuses and primaries by using the very negative rhetoric the King Brothers had been trying to perfect.
Over the past years, as the economy improved, the King Brothers dispatched their favorite politicians and “news reporters” to claim that things were still bad. When gas prices went down, they blamed the President for lack of oil exploration. When the stock market improved, they claimed the business climate was bad. There was no positive story that they could not spin in a negative fashion. As the country got better, they convinced people through campaigns and political “reporting” that things were worse than ever.
Now an outsider was taking over the party, contrary to their original scheme. It did not seem the King Brothers and their billionaire friends could buy him off. They also could not find a candidate strong enough to overtake the front-runner. This meant the good old boys at the meeting could not be convinced to get behind just one candidate. They had a LOT of money to spend on the campaign, just where should they spend it? No candidate delighted a majority of the committee.
Rather than invite everyone back to a penthouse party as originally planned, the King Brothers said good night and headed to their suite at the elegant Wilford Washington Hotel. Others headed to their rooms or left for other accommodations in the nation’s capitol. They were all in the top one per cent and could stay at the finest places.
Cal Rhodes, architect of the Congressional strategy just two years earlier, was pacing the penthouse floor when the King Brothers arrived. The brothers could tell by his demeanor that Cal was not pleased. They had seen this look after debates and primaries, so they knew things were not well.
When the campaign for President started, the boys felt they could manipulate a young Senator into place. He was handsome and made a good first impression on people. With some well placed ads, they thought he could charm his way to the top. However, he could not stand up to the bombast of the front-runner and a few others and was forced to drop out when he got crushed in the primary of his home state. Other candidates the brothers felt they wanted also dropped out, and they certainly did not like what was left at the top of the Leader Board.
“We might as well drink the Pierre Jouet,” Chauncey said of the wine that had been perfectly chilled while the meeting was taking place. Derrick agreed and a servant, standing at the ready by the wine bucket, brought over two glasses.
“You should give Rhodes one too,” Derrick instructed. “It looks like he needs it.”
Since the frontrunner of their party was not to their liking, Rhodes had developed a new strategy and the boys approved. They dispatched the previous party candidate, as well as some well-chosen spokesmen, to go forth and try to prevent the leader from gaining enough delegates to win the nomination.
“A brokered convention will suit us well,” Derrick stated. “We could even bring back one of the guys who has previously dropped out. We just need someone to sway opinion. Truth doesn’t matter, you know, just victory.” With that, they toasted and ordered another glass of the expensive French wine.
When Rhodes returned to the room after watching the latest speech of the front-runner and reading his tweets and social media proclamations, he stopped for more of the precious liquid from France. He needed a large gulp before reporting the latest.
“So,” Chauncey started, “how does Mr. Bombast like our latest strategy? Perhaps he sees we can deny him a first ballot victory at the convention.”
Rhodes looked rather pale and did not exactly know where to start. “Well, it does not seem to bother him at all. In fact, he told his supporters tonight that if he does not get a first ballot victory at the convention, he expects civil unrest not only outside the convention hall, but inside as well.”
Derrick set his drink down and stared at his brother for a long moment. Their well crafted plan had blown away like a sand castle in a wind storm. Finally he said, “Well Dr. Frankenstein, now what?”
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