• Azrael Encarnacion

VALUE & WORTH

Myself, a novice traveler goes on a trip to London and returns with an experience that escapes measurement, price or cost.


London was a trip. Both in the sense of literal voyage and psychedelic mind travel. The visit was a combination of pleasure and research, which is itself an uneven frame because for me, the research was a central part of the pleasure. The pleasure of exploration and scanning for analogy, what equals what. I overflew my budget for my month’s stay, and before the trip, value and worth were definitely on my mind, so now that I’ve returned I keep thinking of the trip’s price and cost.


Spending more money than I had anticipated and while simultaneously having an experience that far exceeded my expectation — That far exceeded even the final amount I ended up spending on it — I weigh what that means. The word ‘priceless’ is interesting because for me, it’s always so close to meaning free yet also the exact opposite, something so possessed and reserved by the holder it’s unattainable to anyone else — Which is what gives the thing its highest value. Ultimately what we keep and refuse to contain via a price tag are the richest treasures we can hold. This is closely related to how I view freedom. We free objects, experiences and ourselves when we transcend quantitive measurement; when we consider them: priceless, wordless, or ultimately…limitless.


It reminds me of a quote from the film, The Counselor, directed by Ridley Scott via the original screenplay debut of novelist, Cormac McCarthy. In this specific quote a gentlemen named Jefe, associated with The Cartel is on a phone call with the main character, a lawyer or counselor. He is telling The Counselor about the Chilean poet Machado who has also experienced the loss of his great love.

“Machado would have traded every word, every poem, every verse he ever wrote for one more hour with his beloved. And that is because when it comes to grief, the normal rules of exchange do not apply, because grief transcends value. A man would give entire nations to lift grief off his heart. And yet, you cannot buy anything with grief, because grief is worthless.”


The film has many conversations between characters about value and worth, the adornment of precious stones and how to measure offense with punishment. McCarthy’s dialogue is an idealized, dream-like poem that is off-putting to viewers who want more realistic exchanges but I’m a sucker for this type of shit! This idea above, for instance, about grief’s high value juxtaposed with it’s worthlessness touches precisely on the personal filter which makes subjective treasure out of what another subject may consider trash.

At the start of this, I mentioned analogy and what equals what, but it’s not a comparison. Rather, it’s bridges and dialogue…What’s connecting and talking to what is a better way of expressing what I sought in London. The wildest thing that can happen is getting what you wanted. Even wilder is getting what you didn’t know came attached to what you wanted. The richness of experience is in the transformation it provides, how it moves you and how you honor that movement. Wilderness also had a tendency to not be contained. Freeing us when we engage with it. Inspiring rapture or fear, or an in-between state of both. I would place grief in that category of wilderness, and despite there being steps to grief, it’s a lot more MC Escher as we’re going through it.


Love is also, I would say, a wilderness. To be falling in love, not only with a person but with an experience. The present-tense of that fall, the potential endlessness of that drop, feeling inevitably more like suspension than descent. Floating…Without a landing — Without land! Falling loses it’s definition…The word breaks open, unrestrained by its meaning and we fly.


London, for me, represented more than what London actually was. More than what the residents there see. More than what another visitor who travels often may feel…It was my first trip across the Atlantic, connecting me to a side of the world only familiar to me via films, pictures, and other media. It’s similar to NYC, where I’m from, in so many ways but it’s immediately distinct. That distinction hit me. It remixed how my mind saw not only where I live but the possibility of places altogether and the humbling awareness I know so little.


In a whole month of staying in a new place that quickly became home, it was the practiced experience of how much of home is me and what I do in a given location. As much as I’m trying to describe why this is significant to me, I can’t and don’t want to — Because it has ceased to fall. Floating, it’s wordless. And you won’t find what I saw by retracing my steps and visiting London. Sure you’ll see the same buildings, parks, and features but what will they mean to you? The value of what I saw is somewhat locked away and unavailable to anyone else. But you’ll find that same value by diving into your own trip, your own literal voyage and mind travel, the GPS location doesn’t matter, so long as it matters to you. And that value you place on that experience is priceless and in being unbound by limit, and adorning your life via the perspective it has offered, it’s free to be infinite.