The value of unimportance

Waste Land

Image by Jitterousperth via Flickr

I recently wrote in a discussion of cyber-surveillance that any veil of anonymity can be pierced for a price, so my anonymity is only commensurate with my unimportance. Unimportance. That got me to thinking about my search for a piece of land in the early 70’s and what that taught me about the value of unimportance. All I could afford was marginal land, land that was ignored or rejected by people with more money. It gave me a new perspective on “the waste land”. As I think T. S. Elliot suggests in his poem of that name, there is often good in what we tend to take for bad and vice versa.

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

The most frequent use of the term “marginal land” that I find is in relation to plant habitats. This or that will grow on marginal land. What one notices about plants that thrive on marginal lands is that most of them are “weeds”. The weeds of humanity are the peasants, paupers, and peons. I suspect that if the meek really do inherit the earth some day, it will be the marginal parts of the earth– the waste land, the junk yards, the garbage dumps, the forests that grew around nuclear plants that melted down…

If the meek inherit the earth, it will probably happen because the rich and powerful have inherited the wind. (Proverbs 11:29,  “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.”)

Is Paradise hiding behind the palisades of the wealthy, or are those gated communities more likely the gates of hell? I think the real Paradise is hidden in plain sight. Paradise for weeds is the waste land. And that is the value of unimportance.


“What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different…”

— T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land


Poor Richard



  • A New North “In transition, the word for world was once forest, our common language was once ocean; our vessels now need to be equipped, with intention, perspectives, languages and tools, that we might traverse the Waste Land.”  @johnkellden

9 Responses to “The value of unimportance”

    • Poor Richard Says:

      Thanks, Jon. I think I recall your name from Wikipedia Review. I like your wiki page. I am interested in something I’d call “non-authoritarian information quality control” in the digital world. Non-authoritarian control sounds pretty oxymoronic, so I sometimes amend it to quality “assurance”. Wikipedia seems like an interesting laboratory for this topic. Have you written about strategies to achieve high quality/confidence in digital media?

  1. Lori Says:

    Proles and animals are free.

  2. Natural Lefty Says:

    I like the humility of this post. I think those who or that which appear unimportant in the eyes of humanity often turn out to be the really important ones. We humans are horrible judges of value when we get together and create a society.

  3. Natural Lefty Says:

    Oh, there is something I have always wanted to ask you. Do you really look like Ben Franklin?

  4. 61-Romance with your unimportance; you could become free | Style 40 Says:

    […] The value of unimportance ( […]

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