The novel Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny, opens with the following lines:
His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha– and the –atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god, but then he never claimed not to be a god.
I was thinking of Lord of Light the other day, and the new start-up Fat Llama, when planning to walk the last 100 miles of the Pennine Way.
I do not have pictures yet of the Pennine Way. This is the Lake District in 2007
I was due to walk the Pennine Way with my brother, with whom I walked the Dales Way in 2003 and who has done all the hard planning, including scoping the route, booking accommodation and so on (and has walked the first 168 miles of the Pennine Way, on his own). But for various reasons he now cannot go – disaster. Fortunately, my daughter has volunteered to come with me instead. Will I be able to keep up?
The connection with Lord of Light is the maps for the Pennine Way.
I recall the novel as the setting for a religion based on carpentry (sic). You visit a temple to collect wood and sacred tools. You make a beautiful model. Then you burn it on the altar and leave the temple feeling whole and purified.
(I have just skimmed through LoL and cannot find the temple – was it another book? Advice, please!)
The quirkiness of the sacred carpentry concept has long stuck in my mind. You create something beautiful. Then you destroy it. Why not, since you will die eventually? If you buy today, say, a computer or a guitar or a dress, how long do you need to keep it before getting rid of it?
Back when we walked the 84 miles of the Dales Way, we bought maps and a guidebook and set off. In 2017, the navigational options have multiplied. In addition to maps and a guidebook, we shall have a GPS system, plus an Ordnance Survey subscription which allows me to see where I am on an Ordnance Survey map on my phone.
Pennine Way cognoscenti will have noticed the catch here. The rugged moorlands of northern England are not famed for wi-fi signals or 3G reception. Ordnance Survey, however, cleverly allow you to download bits of their maps so that they are available – miraculously, with a GPS locator signal – when you are out of range of 3G. I spent a enjoyable evening tracking the route of the Pennine Way on a 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey map on my iPhone and downloading segments of map along the entire route.
I have thus created a perfect collection of maps for walking the northernmost 100 miles of the Pennine Way.
When my subscription to the Ordnance Survey runs out, however, that collection of maps will disappear into thin air. Does that matter?
Or are those maps as redundant, once used, as my 1978 Michelin map of Yugoslavia (sheet 991), which I still keep but, until today, had not looked at since I drove with friends in a VW bus through Pristina and Titograd – now Podgorica – and along the coast to Trieste in the summer of that year?
The road through Titograd (so named from 1946-1992) in 1978
The puzzle over the desirability and technology of retaining digital information is familiar to anyone who has contemplated their mortality and the future of their digital photographs and iTunes collection. But it’s a real-world problem too, as owners of vinyl record collections or cassette tapes will know.
My novel Biotime, in which some people live more or less forever, posits amongst other things that living longer would make you want to own better quality stuff (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site). Is this right? Thoughts welcome.
One cool solution to this is the sharing economy. Fat Llama whose slogan is “Borrow stuff you need. Lend stuff you don’t”, enables you to “rent almost anything”. The concept strikes me as brilliant (disclosure: my son is one of the co-founders). It also has a fine logo:
Borrowing or renting stuff instead of buying it (why own an electric drill?) is a brilliant idea. It’s good for the environment; good for your wallet; and good for your quality of life. A 2009 UK survey showed that 69% of British people in new homes felt they did not have space for all their possessions. A US survey in 2012 showed mothers’ stress levels correlated to the amount of stuff jammed into a home.
I hope Fat Lama will continue to double its turnover every month and change the world.
As for my digital Pennine Way maps, I think I will follow the teachings of Mahasamatman, god or not, and let them go with a smile. If I ever need them again, I can re-subscribe.
P.S. to find out how my walk on the Pennine Way went, see my post How to find your way)
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