Monday, November 28, 2011


I seem to always be searching for new analogies to try to make sense of this vast Terra Incognita which is my life, and this morning for absolutely no reason--there so seldom is one--I was remembering the pinball machine we had in the basement of my parents' home when I was in high school. Where it came from and what happened to it I cannot recall...and the fact that it has taken all of two sentences for me to begin wandering off into a digression goes to the subject of this blog.

Thinking of that pinball machine...and pinball machines in general...I immediately saw a correlation between one of those shiny steel balls caroming haphazardly through the sloping maze of bumpers and obstacles and traps, and me and life. The ball somehow makes its way to the bottom of the machine only to be propelled back again, never ever hitting the same bumpers and obstacles and traps the same way twice. As I say, me and life--and, I suspect, you and life.

As I type this, I am trying to install an update to iTunes to my computer. Ten minutes or so into it, I get a small box saying "In order to continue installation, please close the following application: iTunes" with a bar at the bottom of the box saying "Quit Installer." I close the "application: iTunes." The box remains; no further progress is made (according to the little should-be-moving bar at the top of the screen). But if I "Quit Installer" I cancel out everything that I've done to that point. Dear Lord! Carom! I finally figured it out (I think) and the installation was completed! Hooray! I then went to click on iTunes so I could hear some soothing music after my ordeal. Got a message saying "Your iTunes account has been disabled." Carom-Carom-Ping! Will I get iTunes back? Will the world end not with a bang, but a whimper?

A bit earlier, I went to post a blog on Open Salon. It took a full ten minutes to even reach the site, then another 15 minutes to be able to post the blog. The accompanying illustration never did post, so I finally gave up. I know the fact that I somehow manage to take all these little mishaps personally deprives me of being the poster boy for robust mental health, but I can't help myself.

Old-fashioned pinball machines--real machines over which the player had some modicum of control-- are now pretty much relics, replaced by totally digital, beyond-the-player's-control devices. And on thinking it over, the evolution of pinball games is a pretty good analogy of how our society itself has changed; yet another area of our lives in which humans have lost all power to manipulate or influence, relegated to just standing by and watching the action.

Of course, everyone's life is like an old-fashioned game of pinball. Once our little steel ball is catapulted onto the table of life, exactly what route it takes to the bottom is different for each of us. Some of us are naturally better at the game than others, knowing (or being lucky in) just how to give give a little nudge to the machine or flip one of the little paddles at just the right time to change the course of the ball. I, needless to say, am very poor at it.

Something there is within the human psyche that totally unrealistically expects life to be far simpler than it is, and reacts to the fact that it isn't simple with rebellion rather than acceptance. When something does not go the way we expect/want it to, or something bad happens to us, personally, the common human reaction is to ask "why me?" The answer, befitting the question, is: "Because." If not me, who?

Man is a sentient ball in the vast, insentient pinball machine of life. We don't have to like it, but to like or not to like is not an option. Better we just resign ourselves to the fact and try our best to enjoy the game. We only play it once.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, the recently-released Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).


Kage Alan said...

Oh, but when we bounce on those bumpers... I could get bumped day in and day out.

Dorien/Roger said...

Oh, you hormonal teenagers!