The Rite of the Figures

Or the Evangelism of Silicon Valley

The high priests of Silicon Valley have performed their duty to the gods of the Valleyplace, the divine figures of the cult of Startology with the latest ritual sacrifice in the Rite of the Figures. Until very recently, the Rite was of 10 Figures, but due to some combination of Moore’s Law and Quantitative Easing, it has become 11 Figures in its latest iteration. What is the purpose of this strange ritual? To understand, we must delve deep into the selection process of the high priests themselves.

The high priests are appointed by the gods of the Valleyplace, the greco-roman deities whose machinations and interventions in the lives of mortals within their dominion creates the scintillating social and political drama of Startology. Like their greco-roman predecessors, their drama is both vertical and horizontal, often meddling in each other’s affairs, marrying, producing offspring together, and occasionally killing each other. Like their ancestors, there are both old gods and new, and from time to time a high priest is deified and becomes a god himself—a veritable Schumpeterian narrative of divine creative destruction that makes Zeus and Athena look boring by comparison.

The reigning gods of the day are Andreesen, Graham, and Thiel who govern the world along side the stranger and more mysterious gods of Mountain View who were deified somewhere between the Gmiracle and the advent of their spirit-driven carriages. They are worshiped by loyal supplicants who strive with each other for ordination to the priesthood, eventually high priesthood, and maybe, just maybe, to reach that chimerical dream of godhood.

But sacrifices are required along the way for those Startologists working their way up the Path of Honors. For the lowliest novice, the sacrificial Rite of Dropping Out, although not mandatory, is a way to gain favor with the gods who look at it as an act of true devotion to Startology. The next step is to endure the Rite of Ramen, and to labor without reward until the Rite terminates with the approval of the gods, known as the Blessing of the Series A, or with the death of the supplicant if his labors fail to impress the fickle gods of the Valleyplace. Many earn the coveted blessing, which is used to move up the Path through a series of further blessings.

Then comes the moment of truth—will they curry enough favor with the gods to receive the glorious Treasure of the Acquisition, earning ordination to the priesthood, or will they push for true greatness by risking everything to endure the ultimate test of devotion: The Crucible of the Public Offering. Those few who endure the rigors of the Crucible gain accession to the Holy of Holies as high priests of the Valley and Guardians of Startology.

This brings us to recent events and the Rite of the Figures. With the death of Lord Steve, Keeper of the Silver Pomme and pontifex maximus, the leadership of the high priests has been vacant, and its heir apparent, Lord Zuck has been preparing to accede to the venerated position. The only barrier standing in his way was the Rite of the Figures—the symbolic acquisition of some popular sect within Startology with the sacrifice of gold. The 380 tonnes sacrificed at the altar of the Temple of the Face makes way for Lord Zuck to wear the stoles of pontifex maximus.

But why do the gods require the sacrifice? It is because the entire foundation of Startology’s evangelization of the masses is premised on the salvation-by-acquisition narrative. The vaunted vision of this heaven is what lures many to leave behind mothers and fathers, children and wives, houses and lands to become devout worshippers of the gods of the Valleyplace and it is the sacrifice made in the Rite of the Figures that renews faith in this eschatological promise.

Thousands of young dreamers will be awed by these signs and wonders, and converted into true believers who will dedicate their lives to worshiping and enhancing the status and wealth of the gods in the (mostly foolhardy) hope to one day join their ranks.

The gods demand their tribute—and this week they have been pacified once again.

Skinner Layne