Most planets are destined to be sad, to be beautiful and useless. They circle in blurred orbits, wondering what is the point and can I ever stop circling? Yet we at the Society of Well-Functioning Devices and Designs know there is more to the mystery of the heavens than this. We know, of course, that we don’t really mean ‘circles,’ that Johannes Kepler taught us to say ‘elliptical’ and yet we suspect these celestial bodies do not relish the exertion. Some days they feel winged and worn like ancient birds, other days like the kind of miners that crack open the ground and peer inside. Diamonds are not hard for them to produce, but who needs diamonds in this age of digital metals? This is not usefulness of the kind we like to promote, to call brave and tall and pay in more than merely minimum wage. We are not exactly Ayn Rand over here at the Society, but maybe you’ll know what we mean if we say we’d like a planet to build us a skyscraper and not a forest, so we can get some productivity in place.
Can the heavens ever function like a factory? We doubt it very much, and yet we continue to hope. As our members know, once a year we determine the most useful, well-rounded objects in the universe and award them a very special honor; this year we would like to announce that three (3!) planets are the recipients of this award. This is the highest number of planets we have ever honored at one time. The winners will be featured speakers at The Society’s Annual Awards Gala; until then, we congratulate them and offer a few words about these planets.
This trickster planet is capable of vast self-correction as well as self-improvement, and can serve in many capacities: as a cloaking device, inside heating and cooling units, as a container for diet soda. Places Mercury can be applied: under the kitchen sink, behind the earlobes, inside the walls at night to smoke out wasps, bees, and termites. Mercury can also be used to kill fungus, cure warts, grant divorces, and can be taken internally to prevent the formation of liver spots and babies. Mercury is without a doubt our most useful planet, albeit our most eccentric. We at the Society do not officially sanction eccentricity, but when it leads to so much diversification, to so many uses around the home and office, even we cannot help but be charmed.
Jupiter is certainly the most violent of all our celestial bodies, and violence can be incredibly useful, don’t you agree? If we at the Society want someone ‘rubbed out,’ to utilize the local slang, we just ring up Jupiter and he gets the job done. In fact, we contracted for his services only last year, and found the ‘hit’ extremely satisfactory, accomplished with deadly efficiency and with no disturbance to the planet’s smooth and steady orbit. What a professional. Jupiter is a bit brash and bold for our taste; we prefer our planets understated and tasteful. Still, this is a minor complaint and nothing to take away from the immediate usefulness of having death stacked on your shoulders like wood. Well done, Jupiter: our man in a tight spot.
We must be honest here and admit that we struggled with offering this award to Earth, in the interest of avoiding the appearance of bias. We admit, we were her children first and she could have inadvertently influenced us in our younger days. However, the usefulness of Earth even and after the Late Heavy Bombardment period have filled us with great admiration and awe, and we cannot deny our fascination with her resilience. Furthermore, her partnership with her moon, the push and pull of tides and tilting of axis, is a perfect example of the high-functioning usefulness we seek here at the Society. So we must reward her usefulness, along with her habitability, her days and nights and long shadows and her strange relationship with the sun. We commend her, most of all, for her gracefulness. She has danced at Louis XIV’s French court, in the Ballet Russes, in Balanchine’s Apollo. No one is as light and lithe en pointe, though Earth has been afflicted by hammer toes and bursitis through the advance of age and decay. Our children, grown now, still treasure their posters for Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty, smoothing them out from time to time to remember Earth dancing herself into enchanted sleep. It is a performance they say they will never forget; a performance that showed them how lovely things protect and predict their own endings. Even princesses. Even planets.
Photo by Delaina Haslam