Our star, a paperweight


The Sun. A beautifully dangerous fusion reaction in the vacuum expanse. As a crow might fly – if it put on a crow-sized space suit, with a rocket-pack attached – it lies at some 150,000,000 kilometers distance from the Earth. (That’s about  93,000,000 miles, for those who prefer non-metric measurements.) Long has it been a source of metaphor; an image whose utility knows few limits, and positively yearns to be the light that breaks through yonder window. It has, occasionally, also been worshiped as a god, or god associated accessory, but this apparently happens less often than we like to think. Our star, sometimes deity, anathema to vampires and fair skinned people, time travel device for Captain Kirk, source of life, and a paperweight.

How a paperweight? According to nationalgeographic.com, the Sun contains something like 99.8% of the solar system’s total mass and thus, according to Cool Cosmos, its gravity holds all our planets together. If it were not for our Sun, the Earth could very well have ended up roaming the interstellar depths as a homeless cosmic body. (George R. R. Martin wrote a novel set on just such a planet, which he called Dying of the Light.) As stars go, I am also told that ours is fairly unremarkable. So there you have it, an unremarkable and heavy object that holds things in place. That is to say, much in the same way that a paperweight (unremarkable heavy object) holds a different sort of thing (paper) in place. There is, of course, a key difference: I’ve never owned a paperweight that can attract asteroids and comets. But, I suppose that if I got one heavy enough, it could attract the odd pencil or paperclip.

I realize that the Sun is not really a paperweight; that’s just so much ‘whimsilism’ [the genre of ‘whimsical silliness’, as practiced by my friend Sylvester G. Weatherface]. And yet, I find the analogy quite intriguing. I propose, therefore, that we play a quick game of “what if?”

The game of ‘what if’ is very simple. It’s much like the ‘thought experiment’ I used to uncover the magical qualities of T-shirts, only less intellectually rigorous. As I understand these things, it involves operating in the ‘subjunctive mood’, and thus relies heavily on the positing of ‘counterfactuals’ to imagine alternative scenarios. (I tried to find a link that would explain more clearly what the ‘subjunctive mood’ is. Unfortunately, every definition I came across had me playing the game of “what if I could understand this definition?”)

Our counterfactuals are as follows: What if the Universe is a corporation run by various gods? What if every solar system, even those without life, are cubicles in which various deities work? What if the god, for whom our system is a cubical, is called Justin Tempo. What if Justin is a minor employee of the Pantheon Corporation, and the sun really is his paperweight?

Here’s how I think it would play out:



Justin Tempo, deity tenth-class, of the Milky Way Division, Pan Corp, was feeling very stressed. This was not the normal type  of stress, either – like the kind he gets because his paperweight is continually attracting pencils and paperclips. (Which is a serious inconvenience, because they often end up messing up key pieces of paperwork – most commonly, the piles that sit in his Jupiter ‘in-tray’.) No, this stress was due to the fact that, on arrival at his cubicle this morning, there was a message directing him to go see Divinity Resources. This is never a good message to get, at any time of day. Nor is it a good message to ignore. So, with universe weary reluctance, he took himself off to the dimension where D.R. keeps its offices.

Upon arrival at D.R. reception, he was directed to the office of ‘She of Many Names and Multiple Arms’. With a sharp pang of dread, he realized he knew her; and not in a nice ‘let’s have a drink together after work’ way. Around Pan Corp she was mostly called Ms. Shemanamarms (although she was called other things, too ), and she had a reputation for being quite humorless.

He knocked on her door in a manner, he hoped, that signaled his competence to continue doing his job.

“Come in,”  a voice, that sounded like many voices speaking at once, intoned. “Ah yes, Mr. Tempo, please take a seat.”

Justin took his seat with obedient alacrity.

“We’ve been receiving some troubling reports.” Began Ms. Shemanamarms with practiced, no-nonsense, delivery. “Specifically, troubling reports about the operation of your cubicle.”

“Ummm?” offered Justin, rather inappropriately.

“Yes. Tell me, is it true that your paperweight often has faces drawn on it? Because that paperweight is the property of Pantheon Corporation, and defacing it, by putting faces on it, is a fairly serious act of vandalism.”

It had to be Dave, thought Justin. It had to be Dave who told D.R. about the faces. He’d been causing problems for everyone in the division, especially since his own paperweight had ‘gone nova’.

“I can explain that,” Justin said weakly, “It’s not my fault. It’s the the Earth in-tray, some of the papers in there keep doing that. Especially the ones related to human medieval and early-modern historical periods. Human childhood is a fairly regular offender as well.”

“I see,” returned Ms. Shemanamarms, coldly. “That’s another issue we have here, your paperwork is often a complete mess. Especially the stuff that relates to your work with Jupiter. But that is not the biggest issue, and not the primary reason I have called you in to see me.”

“It’s not?”

“No, it is not. Tell me, what do you know about ancient aliens?”

Earth in-tray, again. It was a serious migraine. In recent times he’d been getting messages from it to the effect he was dead, which made him very paranoid. There were times, like this one, when he wished he’d been given a nice peaceful, and lifeless, cubical to handle. Sally, his ex-girlfriend, had one of those. As a result, she was always annoyingly cheerful and full of optimism. It’s one of the reasons they had broken up.

All Justin could manage was a contrite sounding “I’m afraid I really don’t know anything about them, it’s a bit of a mystery to me, in truth.”

“That’s what we thought you’d say. I’m afraid it’s causing a bit of trouble for us. You see, ‘ancient aliens’ are proprietary of a corporation in an alternate universe. They’ve filed a lawsuit against Pan Corp, and management feels we need to demonstrate that we are taking this seriously by blaming someone for it. This someone is you, Justin.”

“But …” Justin began, but was cut short.

“No ‘buts’, Mr. Tempo, the decision has been made. However, we are not going to fire you. Instead, we are suspending you, at half salary, for the duration of the lawsuit. It will probably only go on for a few thousand years, so you’ll most likely be back to work in no time. There’s a very nice pocket universe that the Chief Executive Divinity likes to vacation in; perhaps you could go there? I believe it has coconut palms, and pineapple flavored beverages.”

“But who’ll take care of my cubicle?”

“It seems to us, Justin, that your cubicle has been taking care of its self for quite some time. It will, no doubt, continue to do so in your absence. Now, if you could just collect whatever you have of a personal nature at your desk and be out by the end of lunch. That will be all.”

With that, the interview was finished, and Justin returned, slump-shouldered, to collect his personal items. Well, item. All he really had of that nature was a nice pot plant – which he had called Arthur Wingsmith, for no apparent reason. As he was leaving, with Arthur safely tucked away in a cardboard box, he turned to look at his desk. He did this in an almost wistful way. Then he noticed that the paperweight, once again, had a face on it. Not a smiling face, one that looked a little serious; almost melancholy.

“Yeah …” he said out loud, to nobody in particular. “I’m just gonna go ahead and deal with that when I get back.”




Source: Wikimedia Commons.


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