Pinball is life


A brief ode to pinball, the aptest metaphor for human existence yet conceived. In which:

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

Quarters up!


(Photo credit: “Flip ’em”, Alan Levine, flickr Creative Commons)


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