Posted by: patenttranslator | December 10, 2011

Living in a Town With No Downtown in a Universe That Has No Center

There was a time, only a few centuries ago, when things still made perfect sense because everything was well organized by a higher power. The Sun was revolving around the Earth, and women had to submit to men because man was given dominion by this higher power over everything, including animals and women. Oh, and there was one book that you could read, had to read, because it contained all the answers to all questions that anyone could possibly ever have.

Then came hordes of heretics who destroyed this perfectly logical and sound order because they could not leave well enough alone within a few short centuries. It started with Copernicus and Galileo who instead of worshiping at their local church worshiped at the altar of science. The center of everything (Earth) suddenly disappeared, to be replaced with an infinite Universe that has no center.

In the old days, every village, even the smallest one, used to have a center called the village green, often located next to a pond, a river, or a bay, and every town had a central square so that new houses were built around this central square, more or less in concentric circles. You can still see this pattern in every European country, as well as in towns and cities in United States, but only if these towns and cities are at least 100 years old, which is really old for America.

The city of Chesapeake, Virginia, population 222,000, where I have been living for the last 10 years has no center, which would be called downtown here, because it was formally created only in 1963 when the car culture was already well established in America. San Francisco has a downtown – Union Square and Market Street, and so do other towns in California where I used to live, such as Petaluma and Santa Rosa, because these are “old towns” that were founded before Henry Ford destroyed what was left of the concept of a universe that has a center.

Our universe has no center. Real estate developers buy up land in areas far away from existing urban areas because all you have to do is build a road that will connect new houses with old civilization. This is of course a very wasteful concept that would not work in countries where land is scarce such as Japan. But it gives people in countries where land is still plentiful plenty of room for their new houses, they can have a pool and four bathrooms instead of only one, even a dock slip for their boat if they live near a lake, a river, or a bay and have plenty of money. One disadvantage of this concept is that most people still have to commute to work, for instance to  offices located in many new centers of the new type of this largely centerless civilization.

The centerless principle is now applied also to the concept of employment. It used to be that people would work for one employer for several decades, and then they would retire on a pension that would be paid by this (one) employer. But most of the funds that were set aside for  pensions disappeared in the bottomless pockets of Wall Street hedge fund managers in the last few decades. Another center that has been removed from our life.

People no longer work only for one employer throughout their entire working life. Most people move from one job to another as soon as they can find a better one, preferably in an area where they can buy a bigger house.

Freelance translators usually commute in their pajamas in the morning only a few steps from the bedroom to their home office, which is perfectly compatible with the concept of a centerless universe. And they don’t have an employer. I receive between 20 and 30 tax forms from my numerous “employers” every year, and there is no main, central employer for me. Otherwise, I could be reclassified as an employee by the Internal Revenue Service.

The customer or customers who were central to my income this year will be probably replaced by different customers at some point, if not next year, then for sure a few years from now. The only job security that freelance workers can hope for is that they may be able to replace lost customers by new ones in an endless process of customer attrition often referred to as “customer churning”, as in churning or shaking up of milk to make butter.

The human brain tells us that everything of course should have a center, at least everything that has a defined shape with equidistant dimensions. But we don’t know where the center is because the shapes keep changing over time.

It is only on the point of dying that we may be able to find out what was the midpoint in the years that we were given by some higher power to live on this Earth, and what was the central theme of our life, or whether there was none.


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