When Susie and I got married twenty-five years ago, one of the lesser items she brought to our new combined household was a big clunky ceramic ashtray. Since neither of us smoked, she took to using it as a depository, by the side of her bed, for earrings, glasses, her watch, and such like things. One day, as I was making the bed, I thought to look at the underside of the ashtray, and found inscribed there "Editions Picasso." "Huh," I thought, "Do you suppose this ugly thing is worth something?" So I took it along to an art shop in the mall and asked, in a studiedly neutral voice, "Can you tell me the market value of this ashtray?" The owner of the shop turned it over, looked at it, went into the back room to consult some books, and came back. "Well," he said, "at auction it should bring about five thousand dollars."
I am forced to admit that in this case the mystifications of capitalism failed me. Try as I might, I could not feel the slightest tingle of divinity emanating from the ashtray. To this day, it sits on Susie's bed table, holding earrings, glasses, her watch, and such like things. There are limits.