MY RECONCILIATION OF ACCOUNTS
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
Excerpt from Accounts Payable – My Life Past Due
It is said that we should be careful lest what we wish for comes true. Well, I wished for a million of dollars on at least a thousand days, and I have no regrets although I am at least a billion in the hole today. Yet I have not abandoned my faith in the power of wishful thinking. I would not be altogether surprised if a million dollars fell into my lap any day now.
I accept the fact that my destiny may not be what I wish it to be but is simply what it is. It is finally dawning on me that I was right all along: I was fated to be a bookkeeping author because that is what I am. It was no accident that the world afforded me the opportunity to pursue the art of writing for so long during this life of mine. I owe the world a better account of that life. Whatever I might be, I am an account payable. Only when my debt to society is paid with interest shall I feel reconciled with the world and be able to depart with the slate wiped clean.
“If you have always been an author,” the reader might ask, “how do you explain all those years keeping books for businesses instead of writing books for readers? There is quite a difference between writing books and keeping books of account.”
I can explain, for that is what I am destined to do, explain things. I have managed to reconcile the two occupations according to the generally accepted principle of evolutionary accounting. The experiences of the Hebrews in Egypt and Israelites in Babylonia along with the development of writing gave me cause to conclude that my bookkeeping experience was not wasted, that it may result in bestselling books.
You see, there was really no conflict between the bookkeeping and writing occupations, for the writing of accounts had its origin in the keeping of accounts. Writing was simply a bookkeeping tool for many centuries before scribes started writing down their thoughts and became Egyptian literati, Jewish rabbis, Chinese scholars, Greek and Roman intellectuals, Byzantine kritoi and sekritoi, and the like — practical-minded, barbarian Anglo-Saxons are the late bloomers of the intellectual world. As long as scribes were comfortably ensconced in bureaucracies of stable countries, they naturally sided with the ruling class, whose treasure they accounted for and whose workforce they supervised.
The accounting profession became an avenue for commoners to move up in the world and to at least count the fabulous fortunes they did not own. And when the supply of intellectual workers exceeded demand during troubled times, when they were thrown out of work or did not get their usual share of the treasure, intellectuals turned to the masses for employment as prophets, sages, and teachers.
Literacy increased the ability of revolutionaries to communicate grievances and diffuse dissension, to bemoan the loss of golden eggs and advocate their reclamation or a cultivation of a new paradise; of course some sages claimed the golden eggs were sour grapes because they did not have any. So literature arose in troubled times: in Egypt with the breakdown of the Old Kingdom around 3,000 B.C.E.; in Sumer after the fall of the Third Dynasty of Ur about 2,000 B.C.E.; in Greece at the decline of the Mycenaean Age; in China during the Warring Period around 600 B.C.E.
Unemployed intellectuals have rightfully been feared and hated by barbarian-minded arch-conservatives throughout history. We are fortunate that so many intellectuals have been retiring types instead of activists with dictatorial aspirations. Mo Ti, a militarist who preached a doctrine of loving people afar as a practical policy of self-defense, remarked that the ruling classes of Chi and Chu “lost their empire and their lives because they would not employ their scholars.” Wherefore we should be careful today with the knife lest we cut off too much fat from our seemingly absurd, gigantic make-work bureaucracies, particularly those that thrive on complex codes and modes for conflict resolution.
Verbal language evolved from counting or the mathematical recording of accounts; cuento y cuenta. The earliest writing constituted accounting records. Primitive people could hardly count beyond three. The concept of number was a great leap forward in abstract thinking. The idea that a man who had 3 goats, 1 pig, and 1 horse had, in sum, 5 animals, was bound to lead further, to broader written generalizations. The Hebrews wrote some of the earliest history books. One reason Hebrews, Israelites, and Jews were counted as an ambitious, land-grabbing, greedy lot is the fact that they accounted for their economic and other social exchanges early on in writing. We find a great deal of politics in the ancient texts; politics of course appertains to the distribution of the absolute power religiously worshiped, one form of which is relative material wealth, the number of things a person has. Given the intense struggle for survival in those days, the ancient texts are naturally filled with matters of economic concern.
Wherefore there is no fundamental difference between the bookkeeping and book writing occupations. A bookkeeper may quite naturally become a writer of distinction, and, for that matter, a dancer and king. The lowly worm evolves into a godly authority. My underlying aspiration to be an author may have been my saving grace all along, and not the sponsor of the awful fate that seemingly impends at this juncture.
In truth, I may be on the verge of the greatest breakthrough of my life, thanks to the fact that I quit that high-paying part-time accounting job I had in order to study and write full time. As if against my will, I was moved to invest my life’s savings in speculation. Somehow I knew I had to make a complete break of it, no matter how financially painful that might be. Why, the Chinese historian Ssu Ma even suffered involuntary castration in order to complete his histories. For once in my life I wanted to bring the drama to a fitting end instead of stopping short of the wings.
My account however remains payable. I danced full circle around the stage, and have taken yet another part-time accounting job, at half the pay, in order to write my swan song. I could have done all this ten years ago and in a comfortable lifestyle if I had kept the job I quit, but I could not forego the pleasure of writing at the time. The risk is much greater now, but the confusion less, for I have reconciled the old conflict in integrity — the integration of keeping business accounts and giving accounts of things real and imaginary.
David Arthur Walters
Miami Beach 2005