I am imagining a great sailing ship named the SS Profit. She is the instrument of ambitious commerce, transporting great volumes of cargo bought in some port at the lowest price possible and sold in another as high as possible. And in each port, once unladen of goods sold high, she is filled with goods bought low and sailed in search of still more ports at which to buy low and sell high.
By churning goods bought low and sold high, the SS Profit makes her way on a never-ending journey, a perpetual profit machine, her sloshing wake creating tidal flows of goods to be traded: the ebb upon taking from some port, that which can be purchased low, and the flood upon selling in another port, all that can be sold high.
The SS Profit is so good at what she does that over time the difference between the low and high tides become diminished–as water seeking its own level. To make up for the diminishing tidal range, the ship sails to ever more distant ports, across ever-more treacherous oceans, laded with ever-more cargo bought low to be sold high. Even as she grows weaker with age, her overloaded hull is made to ride lower in the water until her stability is teetering on the brink of capsize.
In my mind’s eye I can see atop her decks the well-heeled captains of commerce accompanied by their navigator-accountants. They pour over charts and logs, carefully calculating tidal differences and laying-in their course.
Below I imagine the ship’s crew, who manage the cargo and batten hatches. They work hard and jostle and fight among themselves to purchase and guard hard won berths, lest they be sent down into the bilges, and dutifully bide their time, waiting for the brief moments when they will be allowed topside to take in a bit of fresh air and sunshine.
Deep in the dark dank bowels of the ship I imagine the remnants of crew, a growing population of those who can no longer be accommodated in the ship’s lodgings. Although they have no “proper job” aboard the ship and have long since forgotten what daylight is, their lot is to endlessly labor at the pumps and chink aging planks with oakum, lest they become overwhelmed and drowned.
The SS Profit keeps sailing but as is the case for all sailing ships, she is nearing the end of her useful life. The tides of commerce are becoming leveled and she has become overburdened. Her hull is no longer seaworthy and the winds adverse. If she is not soon retired from service, she will founder and sink during one of her increasingly desperate voyages, taking all of her compliment down with her.