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Welcome to the Machine

November 24, 2014

A young man, in the full flower of his youth, comes across very lengthy, complicated and intricate instructions on how to construct an apparatus of some kind. He becomes intrigued and then obsessed by these instructions and devotes all of his hours to the building of this machine, of whose function and purpose he is completely ignorant and wants desperately to find out.

Years go by, as he painstakingly follows each step of the seemingly endless instructions, but he is not concerned at all by the passing of time, so dedicated is he to his task. And in any case, he is convinced that once the machine is completed, all of the work and the time he had spent on it will be retrospectively justified and his actions will gain the meaning that they presently lack.

And so, decades after beginning the construction, the last component is ready to be put into its place. All that is needed to do is to fasten it with the last bolt and the apparatus will be complete. As he is doing so, he realises he has become an old man and that he is now living out the final moments of his life. As his vision grows dim, he sees for the very first time that the apparatus he has spent all of his life building is a coffin and that nothing remains for him to do but to place himself in it for all eternity.


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  1. I’ve read this more than once and have always enjoyed it.

    • thank you for reading it again Pam. I think it’s possible to get a new meaning out of this parable every time that it is re-read.

  2. Nice… đŸ˜‰

    • thank you Doug. Any thoughts as to its meaning?

      • It reminds me of the careers of many archaeologists.

        • interesting. I have received many different interpretations of this parable and have analysed it myself at some detail, but I haven’t received this kind of view of it yet.

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