I want to understand the story of gold. Because something about it is not right. I want to go back to the beginning of gold, when it first pumped through the soil like a shimmering stream in a primordial time, free of the narrative that would follow it, like a celebrity before a celebration. Gold has gone through many lifetimes since the beginning. Notice how it remains a backbone of culture, how it has named and ordained so many. We are apparently helpless to its charm by nature. Humans are attracted to lustrous surfaces because they remind us of water. A glint in the distance to our early ancestors meant hydration and survival. But gold is still more than its shine. Gold is the color of the sun, deep and bold: a color of leaders.
There must have been a time when gold was strewn lazy as pebbles on the sun soaked land. Egypt mined and lacquered with gold back in 3100 B.C.. It is said to have blown in the wind with the sand across the Sahara. Lydia, or present day Turkey, was the first to separate gold from silver and fashion coins in 560 B.C.. Each coin was worth exactly its own weight. Thus the search for gold became a race for wealth. Literature and art began to represent showers of gold, caves of gold, pockets of gold that lay hidden in the world all ripe for the picking. The first man to find it was promised the riches it bestowed upon him.
Hence, explorers travelled to disparate corners of the world to pillage for gold and generate wealth within their respective countries. With the hoarding of gold the, 1800’s brought The Gold Standard, which became a global way of measuring currency. $20.67 per gold ounce was what the career golddiggers measured as they whisked their pans in frigid streams and creeks in the west - all the way to California: the golden state. The price of gold only mounted through time.
With the discoveries of vast gold deposits, the metal’s value fluctuated at alarming rates. To combat this unpredictability, the US created the Federal Reserve in 1913, a movement aimed to stabilize US currency. President Nixon backed out of the European Gold Standard a global measurement, the Bretton Woods Agreement, effectively allowing the US to print money indefinitely. Globally, the balance between dollars and gold continues to teeter.
So here is my amateur take on the gold market: save all of your gold belongings. The market has a mind of its own now, and, lord knows we don’t want to be scratching nickles at the cash register, or having our dear debit cards declined in the supermarket line. Keep those gold necklaces, grills, teeth, and bracelets for when the dollar fails us altogether. Make note of what gold you have pressed into the covers of books or sewn into the seams of clothing. As the stock market went in free fall at the end of December 2018, the value of gold has been on the rise according to goldprice.com.
Gold is a dream, unlike its metallic brothers and sisters like mercury, lead, iron, and bronze. Ultimate accomplishments are crowned in gold. Paris chose Venus with a golden apple. Golden halls are adorned for long lines of kings and queens proved by the power of the luminescent metal. An athlete raises a golden goblet on a pedestal: a winner. The bearer of gold is worthy or chosen for it.
The search for gold has been fraught. Like many precious metals and gems, gold has long been the reason for colonialism. Mining work is and has been given to slaves or native people. It has been reason to excavate swaths of land. The entire Americas became grounds for uprooting when the conquistadors searched, in madness, for El Dorado, a real, or imagined, or hallucinated city of gold. When the original gold diggers crawled over the west, sifting streams with peering eyes, long beards, burnt and chapped skin. Yes, these are the conquerors, in whatever form they take. These are the people looking to uncover a heaven on the earth, to uproot, export what the good earth has for the crowning of themselves or their kings. How can you adorn yourself in something that has been stolen? Crowning oneself, clothing oneself in order to name oneself is a kind of freedom. But we can clothe ourselves in items not pillaged or mined from spoils of conquest or through the subjugation of others. Being chosen, feeling the sensation of glory can’t come from the desperate pillaging for the material of the crown. A crown can’t make a king, like a title can’t make a leader.
Robert Frost’s transient gold is a dissipation of that glimmering moment in all beginnings that is swallowed by time: a sunset overtaken by night. Gold simultaneously signifies its grandeur, and its opposite. While gold represents wealth, leadership, and accomplishment, it also represents emptiness. The golden apple is a pyrrhic victory, the golden calf is a lie.
Hold on….With this melodramatic thinking, does loss not just take on another thing? Loss is not an issue of emptiness, but that of adaptation. Sometimes we feel we are drowning. Sometimes we feel we are at the end. With the discovery of a gold-like-thing, there is nothing more outstanding that can come after. But I believe that there is no “the” in end. There is no one thing. If you were to ask gold in literature, and art, you would know the abundance of it. If you were to find it, like that poor soul in the beginning of Disney’s Aladdin, how it would spill over the world, over all of time - with such glory.
I press my head into a pillow when the sun rises through a curtain too scant to keep out light. No proper shades, just a single sheet. I can count the mornings I’ve woken up and remembered someone has left. And I curse change. I can barely listen to sad songs because my insides feel like stale bread. Heartbreak is cheap. It feels like a damn waste of time and energy. This feeling has been around before. I think about Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.” Is the heart mine or theirs? And I don’t think that searching will bring you any closer, doesn’t that gold, that heart, that love come like wind? Doesn’t it grow from the ground?
What is searching for a heart of gold versus searching for real gold going to accomplish? Tired hands. A tired spirit. A big hole in the ground. Think of the hands that would find that gold: trembling, dirty, worn for the fight put up against the stubborn ground. At this point what would it be worth? The western world stands on spindles for legs. It’s riches, the gold, or the luxury that expands is teetering on the hands of people and industries that are not sustainable or healthy in the same way we mine for dreams that are too heavy for our shoulders. The work to excavate can never be properly rewarded because it is never enough to fill all the halls, to crown all the heads and fill our aching hearts. And this is the emptiness that is missing, the emptiness between people that a unbalanced amount of wealth brings.