About Value, Words and Desire

(image: pinterest)

What is Value?

It depends who you ask. Oxford Dictionary provides several alternatives;

“The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something”; or

“The numerical amount denoted by an algebraic term; a magnitude, quantity, or number”.

Urban Dictionary, a significantly less prestigious tool (which is nonetheless informative) provides several more, such as;

“A special kind of sentiment added to an object after having it rubbed against a man’s crotchular region”; or

“Good drugs”.

So, it turns out that notions of value are highly volatile. Depending on what one desires and what they have experienced, their definition of value and any ideals attributed to it will be diverse. Of particular interest to me is the conflict between the deserved value of something and the numerical amount assigned to it, as defined by Oxford Dictionary.

The Mirror of Erised

The Mirror of Erised (‘Desire’ spelt backwards) is a decorative way of understanding the subjective nature of value (image: Deviant Art)

“The happiest man on earth would be able use the Mirror of Erised like a normal mirror, that is, he would look into it and see himself exactly as he is . . . it shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts” Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Albus Dumbledore, the wisest guy to grace the earth since Gandhi, talks about values in terms of desire. When we want something, there’s a particular value attached to it. This is the basis of consumerism; it’s also the foundation of much human behaviour and belief. The Mirror shows us that Harry wants to see his parents; his values of love, family and loyalty align with this. Desire, then, can be seen as a subset of value. This says to me that definitions of value are as flexible and diverse as values themselves.

How about numerical value? Can we articulate any of Harry’s values with a numeral with accuracy? Of course not.

Why am I talking about value this week, of all things? Kate gave us the option, in BCM311 this week, to decide whether to attribute 15 percent of our final grade to a blog post such as this one, or to add it on to an existing assessment task; a presentation to be more specific. This time last week the obvious choice for me was the blog. Writing is by far my strength over speaking in front of a class, surely the logical choice would be to earn marks for my blogs?


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My blogs for this subject and beyond are truthful to me. They are real; my stories, my thoughts and my considerations. They aren’t wrong; they can’t be by definition. Given this, what would be the impact of assigning them a numerical value? Are my feelings worth a 72? My story, a recount of a live event, an 81? What are the implications of the conversion of words to numbers?

If my experience is worth a 67 and that of the person beside me is 70, does this mean my experience is less valued? Does it matter less? Do I matter less?

Einstein differentiates success from value. Is success measured numerically? Can we measure value at all? (image: Brainy Quote)

I wrote several posts during the holidays which were completely non-compulsory and unrelated to my studies. I found that the reception of these posts on social media and the support and encouragement I received from a number of people were worth so much more to me than any mark ever could.

Words have no score. They are valuable in their own right (image:bitrebels.com)

I’ve touched on this issue before; my posts Take a Number and On Triangles, Fate & Divergence each explore the issues with associating humanity with numbers and categories. I’m a numbers girl, I’ve said that before. But from now on, I’d like to keep that separate from my blogs. Words are too powerful for numbers. Their impact or meaning cannot be measured by science. I think that’s my favourite thing about them.

This is why I’m choosing to write these words for the sake of them; they are valuable because they’re real and they’re written for me.



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