During yesterday’s meditation, my thoughts meandered to machines. Specifically, that I interact closely with them 24/7. I sleep with the aid of a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine that blows air into me. There’s the wristwatch I habitually strap onto my wrist each morning. The microwave range that heats breakfast. The central heating and cooling system that keeps the house comfortable. Plus the laptop I use to compose this blog.
Those are just the more complex machines. There are simple machines like the bathroom and kitchen plumbing, door hinges and latches, plus light switches. Our lives are awash with machines. Practically everything we do is associated with some sort of simple or complex machine.
For old time’s sake, I pulled an old “Wallace and Gromit” video to watch yesterday. The claymation series is my all time favorite “cartoon”. To create each episode Nick Park uses the technology of stop motion. The movies are shot one frame at a time. Aside from the impeccable filming technique, I love the opening scenes. The little movies begin with a Rube Goldberg sequence of gadgets that begin the day of the Wallace the inventor and Gromit his intelligent dog.
Speaking of Rube Goldberg, here’s what he once said about himself: “Many of the younger generation know my name in a vague way and connect it with grotesque inventions, but don’t believe that I ever existed as a person. They think I am a nonperson, just a name that signifies a tangled web of pipes or wires or strings that suggest machinery. My name to them is like a spiral staircase, veal cutlets, barber’s itch— Terms that give you an immediate picture of what they mean.”
Are modern machines are like Rube Goldberg devices, or are Rube Goldberg contraptions more like modern machines?
Think of the average automobile. There are numerous parts in the engine, alone. All of them must work together perfectly to yield the all-important power. The engine works in concert with a transmission that contains a dizzying number of parts that must mesh perfectly to bring power to the drive wheels. The wheels are kept in place by the complicated suspension system of bearings, axles, springs, shock absorbers, steering components, etc. that are, themselves, machines. Add to these, the various accessories like air conditioning, window controls, and more.
How much thought do you give to your car or truck each day? Isn’t it amazing that such a collection of parts can reliably take you places day after day? Each motor vehicle is a collection of hundreds of “miracles” within a single machine.
Almost everywhere we look, machines play an important role. Think of the machines that are used just to bring us food. Huge farm implements like tractors and harvesters down to blenders, mixers, refrigerators, and ranges.
We can think of many more machines that make up our civilization. Some are derived from all-new concepts and others are refinements of older machines. In some way, we are all dependent upon machines.
It’s worthwhile to ponder our machines.