Is valuing always a human activity (is it something relative to our purposes), or is value something — say some quality or class of qualities — to which we can become more sensitive? Do we project it, or do we discover it?
I’ve just finished Ben Lerner’s metafictional novel 10:04, and I recommend you buy it. Not just because, if you buy through that link I just offered, I’ll get a ridiculously small commission that will pay for about one tenth of one mile of gas on a 24mpg car, but because it has made me think a great deal about a number of themes in my own life: the character of our relationships, our material connections to other people near and far, the character and value (and non-value) of art, the possibility of an individual and a shared future, the overlap between the past and the present (and the future), the ways that arriving futures can affect the nature of the history leading up to them (a history that fails to achieve realization can vanish like Michael J. Fox’s hand in Back to the Future – for which this book is named), and the redemptive possibilities within life and history.
Most of us do not spend large parts of our lives on boats, but in cars. We cannot, thus, easily generate the kinds of metaphors that must have come naturally to writers from the late 19th and especially early 20th centuries, who would have traveled by boat primarily, and for whom boat and water metaphors would have been the most natural for communicating concepts of motion-against-stability. Today, I suppose, we do not attempt to say anything about motion as it is experienced in cars, or attempt to capture, in a text, the sense of the rushing past of the world on a highway — if anything, we simply show it on film.