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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The #Idea idea. By John von Daler

                 The transition period was difficult. People were so used to paying with credit cards and iphones.


                Not that it took more time. You could mumble out an idea quickly and get into the amusement park, but still a lot of the arriving guests fumbled for their wallets and looked confused when the attendant said, "Just give us an idea!" Then some of them asked "An idea of what?" and the attendant would answer, "That's just it. Whatever!"
                You see, the amusement park stockholders did not want money anymore. The dividends had been paid and paid for all these years; the place did a great turnover. But money was just not what it once had been.
                You could not buy anything worthwhile anymore. People who lived in the polluted cities used to buy summer houses or vacations in faraway places. Now those places were just as packed and polluted as their own cities. So why buy? And traveling was so tedious - one place looked more or less like another.  Of course you still had to buy groceries and clothes at home, but money and credit cards were definitely on the way out. Even advertisements were considered old-fashioned, so the false demand for some products just did not exist. People only bought what they really needed.
                So the park had decided to take ideas instead. You whispered an idea into the attendant's computer and in an underground office somewhere one of the waiting functionaries wrote it down, classified it and sent it on to the company archive. Later, experts would select the best ones for use by the stockholders. Just last week one of the biggest shareholders had decided that one of his companies would live and work by Kant's imperative: that whatever they did would have to be universally applicable. The imperative had been whispered into the entrance computer by a philosophy major who had just taken his exam and was here to celebrate. He had added, "You Kant win them all!" and had rolled giggling on into the park to get drunk. The company that took it up did not understand the imperative either, or that they could in fact live and work by it. But the attempt was positive and seemed also to turn a profit.
                So the man at the gate said Give me an idea! and even small children said, "Mmmm, puppies are nice!" and they were admitted to the park and the idea was sent on to the shareholders; one of them might make a decision based on that idea. He might buy a puppy for each of his employees and rename his company Puppyland. At least he could, if he wanted to.
                But here at the start of the transition period, some people balked at the idea idea. They stood by the entrance to the park and thought and thought. Sometimes a small line would develop and people would get impatient because maybe a chubby lady in a cotton, patterned dress and a broad, straw hat turned pea-green in the face and stood thinking for a long time. Then she would perhaps say, "Well I just don't have an idea in my head!"
                Finally the attendants had to come up with ideas of their own to get things moving. That was when I got my job. I supplied the idea-less guests with ideas. Really, it was easy enough when you got in the swing of it. Take the example of the chubby lady with the hat. I just said, "Chubby ladies cannot be all wrong" to her. She looked so happy, she repeated my words to the computer and got into the park where she ate an ice-cream cone while the people in the archives filed and categorized her idea. Who knows what strange chubby challenges they will make out of that!

                So now I stand there every day behind a cart filled with dictionaries and ipads showing Wikipedia. I have on a three-piece white flannel suit on which are drawn the signs and symbols of a myriad of cultures. On my head is a giant hat formed as a question mark and on my arms and legs are tattoos of elegant philosophical bon mots. Sometimes I only have to look at myself to get an idea. What a job!

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