A Rube Goldberg machine is a deliberately over-complicated mechanism that performs a simple task, named for the cartoonist Goldberg who sketched them in the 1930s. Goldberg’s cartoons were popular satires ridiculing the machine age when patents were churning out mechanized conveniences for consumers.
Take his “Self-Operating Napkin”
The “Self-Operating Napkin” is activated when soup spoon (A) is raised to mouth, pulling string (B) and thereby jerking ladle (C), which throws cracker (D) past parrot (E). Parrot jumps after cracker and perch (F) tilts, upsetting seeds (G) into pail (H). Extra weight in pail pulls cord (I), which opens and ignites lighter (J), setting off skyrocket (K), which causes sickle (L) to cut string (M), allowing pendulum with attached napkin to swing back and forth, thereby wiping chin.
All the man has to do is raise the napkin to his chin to wipe his mouth himself. Goldberg mocked our extravagant ambition to make life conveniently simple.
Goldberg’s humor still exists in both fictional and actual form.
What first comes to mind are products like the Elite Cuisine Hot Dog Toaster, available through Target. Just visit Sky Mall’s website: http://www.skymall.com/ to find more absurd products intended to simply you’re life, like the Automatic Ball Launcher. For $150, you’ll never have to play fetch with your pup again.
Or take the movie Honey I Shrunk the Kids, where the inventor played by Rick Moranis comes up with contraptions that cook for the family and feed the dog.
I can laugh with these products and gags. But I can also relate more personally to the complex system that struggles needlessly to complete a simple task: my brain.
My mind can be a wonderland of unnecessary gears and pulleys when it tries the simple action of not drinking.
After I got married, a colleague of mine who didn’t know I’m alcoholic brought me a bottle of wine as a gift. He gave it to me Friday after school.
The Rube-Goldberg machine that is my mind activated:
It (A) was too awkward for me to tell him he gave a bottle of wine to an alcoholic so I (B) did the normal thing and placed it in my bag. As it was the end of the day, I (C) went home, leaving the bottle in my work bag. The next day I (D) realized there was a bottle of wine sitting in my bag and (E) began to flip out. I then (F) contemplated going to back to work that night to (G) dispose of the bottle so I would not be tempted when I return to work. Driving to work that night, I (H) realized I should (I) call my sponsor on this one in case I’m about to (J) screw something up. My sponsor (K) told me “turn around and go home to your wife.” I (L) said “OK” and (K) asked “what do I do?”
My sponsor then informed me to not worry about it. But the next time the bottle is in my hands, throw it in the trash. What I realize now is that my sponsor was saving me from sneaking into my place of work on a Saturday night to be alone in the dark with a bottle of wine.
Our mind’s are complicated. I find that those simple dogmatic phrases like “don’t drink” and “call your sponsor” and “keep coming back” will save my life if I let them.