“I would rather not”

There’s an article in this Sunday’s NY Times called “The Useless Machine.” http://tinyurl.com/gpdvqbh. It’s about a battery-operated machine that ‘s just a box with a lever. Flip the lever, and the machine whirs, the lid opens, and a small hand comes out and flips the lever to the off position. That’s it. Here’s a picture.

box image

And here’s a link to a video demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z86V_ICUCD4.

As it happens, I’ve been intrigued by this little device for years. The author of the article, Mark O’Connell, likes what he calls its “patient defiance,” its point-blank refusal to bend to human wishes. But I think of it as a metaphor for the self. When we question our own workings; when we challenge the patterns we use to take our stand in the world, the self resists. “Do not bother me,” says the self, rousing itself just enough to cut off further inquiry. “You,” it seems to say, “would look to see how I operate. I will not cooperate.” Case closed.

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