Gumball Puzzle Machine

I don’t like puzzles. People find them absorbing for a reason and I understand that, which is why I don’t care for them. If I only have so many minutes to actually be alive on this earth, and I have to spend most of them either in a coma, working, or performing bodily functions, I don’t want to spend the precious few moments I have left re-assembling perfectly good picture that someone has cut into 500-24,000 pieces, depending on your preference. Killing time is for the birds. This, however, is far from the most puzzling thing about people.

Its hard not feeling like a gumball in one of those big old machines, the ones with the glass globe filled with orbs of every color. When you put a quarter in and crank it a gumball would drop down the chute and wait for you behind the trap (two if you were lucky). As that first gumball exited the globe all of the other gumballs in the machine would shift, each pressed up tight against the next, fighting for position, jostling for space. Yet in the end each of them is just waiting to be chewed up by some chubby kid with cavities (or possibly to roll under the machine until dislodged and or stepped on).

In life we are all fighting to carve out our own little individual space, within the confines of the invisible walls we construct around the social entity that we are plugged into. We compete to be the best, the make the most, to have the most. We spend our whole lives building this thing we call “a life,” to accrue “wealth” so that someone will take care of us long after we are physically unable to do it for ourselves. We place so much importance on someone’s status within a particular social hierarchy, a model copied from the smallest group setting to the world at large. When someone attains something that is “expensive” people are impressed by the object. But why does simply possessing an object elevate the status of one human being over that of another? Especially when an object has a viable alternative who’s only default is that it cost less.

Perhaps we are impressed by the fact that someone worked hard to obtain something. If so, one must ask what other valuable activity that person could have been doing instead of working to obtain something that our culture has decided is “fancy.” It is not even an issue of poorly spent resources, because the money we use to buy things is just an artificial representation of the value of labor. Now step outside the paradigm of the modern work-for-pay, salary, 40-hour work week, specialized “job.” Instead of working super hard to buy a nice car you could literally sit on a beach and fish and eat coconuts all day. You can’t drive a car on the beach anyway.

How did we come to value objects so much in the first place. Manufactured objects exist purely to make you work more. The less you need, the further your work goes where it counts. Many of the items we have are superfluous and unnecessary. Many more can be effectively done with out, or replaced with cheaper alternatives if one uses a little ingenuity and is willing to step outside of the typical category of consumer that so neatly describes each of us in the minds of the beast.

And say we are impressed by the hard work that the person put into attaining something grand. It stands to reason we should be equally impressed or attracted to a person who spends countless hours collecting marbles because they are shiny. Mother Teresa worked hard her whole life and is and should be venerated for it. Hopefully more than the entertainers we have spawned to pantomime our grotesqueness like carnival mirrors. There was only one Mother Teresa but there are millions of people doing equally great works in the world to benefit mankind in a fundamental way. In this country, we do not value this work as much as we do obtaining items by doing as little as possible. I really think sometimes that we are no better than the magpie, who spends his days flying about, causing disturbances with his fellow birds, and seeking to pilfer shiny objects to take home and admire.

Some look at this world as a puzzle, which is an apt metaphor in more ways than one. On one hand, each human being could be the holder of a single puzzle piece, which when added to all of the rest, will help to form a magnificent tapestry, the greatest work of art to ever exist: mankind. On the other hand each piece must be unique in some way for the puzzle as a whole to work. As the number of pieces in the puzzle increases the more difficult it becomes to finish. This is because there are more pieces to choose from, making it harder to find the exact place that is best for each specific piece. As we sift through the endless pieces they all begin to look the same to us, making it even more difficult to figure out how the whole fits together, and where each piece belongs in it. Like I said, a good metaphor for the world.

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