It goes back to a phenomenon of modern currency. I remember a class on the History of Economics with a professor who had a love/hate relationship with Karl Marx. At one point Marx wrote of the increasing complexity of the marketplace, and how money itself seemed to vanish the more complex the economy became. “All that is solid melts into air,” he wrote in the Communist Manifesto. My prof lingered on phrase. “Such an economist,” he murmured, “such insight.” Since he typically said many unkind things about Marx-The-Man, this grudging respect for Marx-The-Economist stuck in my mind.
Another economics professor was so painstaking in his lecture on how currency values were ascribed that he paused and actually asked us if we had any questions. We sat there in utter silence. Taking that to mean we hadn’t understood a single word he’d said (which in fairness, did happen on a regular basis), he repeated the entire lecture but this time more slowly.
Unlike my professors, I effortlessly grasped the idea that something completely valueless had enormous value if everyone simply agreed that it had. All currencies are mythologies, a state-sanctioned semi-autonomous religion propped up by innumerable doctrines, guesstimates and rulings. We act like this invisible power is real. We act as if it really does have value. In reality, the value resides only in our collective mind.
I got that. But then, I’ve also emotionally bonded with invisible people, occasionally I’ve even taken their guidance. I have - with real flesh and blood friends - discussed these people in a caring way, because my friends also know them. This shared friendship exists only in our collective mind. These invisible people have enormous value to me, yet they don’t exist beyond the idea.
I totally get how our currency works. But then again, I’m a reader of novels.
Hobbs and his imaginary friend.