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"My name is Mr. Machine!"

Once I've laid out the job, my mind starts reducing it, influenced, I suspect, by The Principles of Scientific Management I've so long reviled. I am not, I insist, a machine, except, of course, when I willingly assume the role of machine while in pursuit of completing some repetitive series of tasks. Then, I'm actively searching for movements I might reasonably eliminate, seeking a pattern of least resistance, creating a simplified set of repetitive motions of the sort which might well leave behind permanent damage. I willingly, enthusiastically become a machine. The jingle from that sixties toy commercial endlessly echoes through my head: "Here he comes, here he comes, when you see him, you'd better run 'cause his name is Mr. Machine." I am become not light, not a force for goodness and right in this world, but a genuine machine.

My mind feels perfectly satisfied with my self-appointed role.
My thoughts wander, but not toward the profound or insightful. Jingles jangle through me, further animating my already almost completely automatic action. I reduce what once felt like two left feet performing fine handwork into the precision of a finely-designed sewing machine. Step on the pedal and produce flawlessly even stitching or, as in my case, a perfectly stripped siding board. The task hardly matters. Line up a hundred or two essentially identical operations, and I'm simplifying my response to transcend the need to analyze, decide, or choose. I shift into automatic and then quickly shift up into a mental and physical overdrive of my own devising.

I find this MindlessEffort enormously satisfying. This isn't the much-touted Bullshit Work, nor does it qualify designation as anything like RocketScience. I might be picking apples or stripping siding boards, weeding out a garden or pruning fruit trees, my mind seeks simplicity's solace. I hurt myself, over-extending my usual limits to leave my right hand feeling two sizes larger than my left. I continue anyway, temporarily unaware that I might have limits. I perform without analyzing, without really even recognizing that I'm working. I feel suspended above and beside the effort, focused upon a key performance indicator or two. I leave no ragged bullnoses behind. I quietly calculate my velocity, figuring that I've cut my mean time to strip a line of siding from about twenty to fifteen minutes. I quietly count the boards remaining beneath me, predicting probable completion times. I cease only when sunset disrupts my isolating engagement, forcing me to set aside my mechanistic ways to clean up the surprising mess I somehow left behind me.

I sleep the sleep of the unplugged machine. I remember no dreams. I awaken a little stiff, but raring for more MindlessEffort, aching to re-enter that zone of mindlessness, to become my machine again. I experience no existential confusion there, no philosophical conundrums. My existence and most of its contradictions resolve themselves into a small, eminently manageable sphere. I am simply here and nowhere else. I am for this blessed time, not faunching for something, anything else. I will not wish I was already done or that I was making better progress. I will want for nothing but successive repetitions promisingly reverberating ahead of me. I feel so finite I'm eternal.

We are in actual fact, each eternal, a subtle fact obscured by our often too-obvious seeming three score and ten. Our inherent infinity lies not out there somewhere, but disarmingly closer to home. We sometimes desperately need some alone time. We seem to ache for activity that won't encourage us to overthink. We exceed our edges when most tightly constrained, when our minds, set free, choose to severely limit themselves, to turn themselves into machines. We find ourselves suspended then, freely floating within a satisfying flow. We seem to exist for nothing more than punching out that next widget, though we're actually punching through space and time. Don't look for me on the scaffolding today, for I will not be there. If you see me, you'd better run, for my name is Mr. Machine!

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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