But not always. An accountant friend said to me the other day that she had realized that her profession was actually a religion.
“Of course!” I replied. “Wow, look at the time. Shouldn’t you be heading off to do something really important right now?”
Unfortunately nothing was more important than delivering me three items of proof for her assertion.
Number one: yoga has become a dominant cultural practice in the world (there are now more aficionados of this discipline in the United States than Methodists and Presbyterians put together), and was developed by an accountant.
“Lahiri Mahasaya maintained that there was no separation between his day job as an accountant and his work as a yogi,” she said.
Well, of course. Both are about sitting on your bottom for long periods, dealing with annoying people and trying not to fall asleep.
Her second piece of evidence was a book in her bag on the philosophy of accountancy which said accounting rules try to grow ethical corporations in the same way that religious codes try to grow ethical communities. Accounting makes the things “it pretends to describe” author James Aho wrote. That’s actually pretty deep.
Third, historians recently translated ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and found a female deity called Seshat who was “the goddess of accountancy”.
Seshat wears a seven-studded headpiece and a leopard-skin dress. I seriously think this should be made compulsory uniform for all accountants, especially the guys.
I responded to all this with the line which becomes second nature to all smart men faced by strong-minded women: “Yes, dear, I’m sure you’re right.”
But maybe she actually was.
The following morning I received a link from a reader to a news report about a “living god” in Nepal. Chanira Bajracharya, aged 15, had decided to retire from her role as the holy incarnation of a deity, it said.
“I want to study accounting,” she told reporters. The article said she’d been living a solitary life of study and contemplation, and had no friends of her own age.
Clearly, fate had prepared her for life as an accountant.
Money and magic overlap a lot in Asia.
The guy who runs the Chinese funerary shop near my office, which sells paper replica products to burn ceremonially for your dead ancestors, has stocked up on paper iPads (pic above) so that people can send Bitcoins to dead grandparents.
I haven’t been able to explain Bitcoins to myself, so have no hope of explaining it to grandpa’s ghost.
Anyway, here’s a beancounter joke.
Q: “Did you hear about the accountant’s prayer?”
A: “Lord, help me be more relaxed about insignificant details, starting tomorrow at 10.53:16 a.m.”
In the end, I told my accountant friend that I would accept that her profession was a religion if she would wear for me the same costume that Seshat wore in ancient Egypt: a seven-pointed crown and a leopard-skin dress.
Fingers crossed, camera-phone standing by.