A brief ode to pinball, the aptest metaphor for human existence yet conceived. In which:
- You begin by being plunged into a Rube Goldberg machine of bizarre obstacles, loud noises, and flashing lights.
- The rules are convoluted and arbitrary, and no-one can really explain them to you before you play for yourself.
- But knowing the rules is more than half the battle.
- The machine will goad and tempt you into risky shots. You will take them.
- The biggest rewards require a long series of specific, precise tasks. If you mess up any of them, tough.
- The object is to do the best you can before you inevitably, inescapably drain.
- Everybody drains. It might be bad luck or your screw-up, but there is no “winning”, just losing more slowly.
- Any joy in success is fleeting. You know you could have been a little better or a little luckier.
- No matter how long you survive, you’ll wish it was longer.
- Somehow it seems important to try to impress people who are watching.
- You are given two little flippers to beat back the inevitable, and expected to be grateful for them.
- You can try to stay in control, or you can flail. You can play safe, or take risks. Live fast, die young.
- One bad bounce can send you screaming down an outlane before you have time to react.
- The most successful are immortalized cryptically in the high score list. But only until someone better comes along.
(Photo credit: “Flip ’em”, Alan Levine, flickr Creative Commons)