Paul E. Schoen

This paper intends to explore my thoughts about the fundamental spiritual basis of all things. I will use as a basic theme my experiences with machines and other such inanimate objects, because I have developed much more confidence in dealing with such, and because their inherent simplicity compared to life creates a useful metaphor.

Machines, as I have come to know them, exhibit very often quite human qualities, and I have found that they seem to respond at optimum levels when they are treated in a loving manner. Since machines are much simpler than people, it is easier to do, but the basics apply to both. This involves sensitivity and response to need. A machine's needs are in general quite simple, and the symptoms of neglect are easily noticed. For example, the most frequently neglected needs of machines are probably lubrication and cleaning. I think of this especially right now, as I am typing on a machine, which only recently began to cause me much disappointment by operating very roughly. At first, I was somewhat angered at the machine; then, I became angry at the people who may have abused it. Finally, I realized that I must respond to the machine's expression of need, by diagnosing the problem and seeking the solution. I found the problem to be simply a need for lubrication of one part, but I put oil on all apparent points of friction; the result is now a "happy" machine and a "happy" operator.

Sensing an inconsistency in a machine's operation is only the first step in the cycle of sensitivity and response. In order to even sense a problem, there must be a fairly deep level of understanding, which must come from a long period of enlightened experience. The diagnosis and correction require even more sensitivity, as well as plain knowledge about how to satisfy any of a number of machine-needs.

What is needed, ultimately, is a basic respect for the machine. Once this respect is established, it becomes a very natural thing to treat a machine gently, sensitively and lovingly. The rewards, in my experience, are machines which respond faithfully and give fair warning when they are in trouble and need extra attention.

Of course, there is an added dimension of machine personality. In fact, there may be some machines which, perhaps because of poor quality materials or irresponsible workmanship, may never be able to perform reliably. Even machines such as these should be treated kindly, and used as much as possible; but they should be given jobs in proportion to their ability and not depended upon to work every time. Even when they break, they deserve the right to be repaired if possible, and if not, then discarded with due respect.

This discourse on quality brings forth another point: machines are created to fill a demand, and if the demand is for cheap, poorly constructed equipment, then that will be produced in increasing quantity, flooding the market. The outcome of this would be increased frustration with the machines, unwillingness to fix them, and more frequent disrespectful discarding, or even violent destruction. The logical remedy would be to buy only equipment of highest quality, made from good materials with careful engineering and workmanship. Such machines would last much longer, and would be easily repaired. Given sensitive maintenance as outlined above, they would respond reliably in all cases of need, and eventually receive the love they deserve.

Whether machines really have a spirit and soul or not is irrelevant to the intended purpose of this document. I believe that, in order to love a human being who is equal to oneself, one must first be able to love and respect all things of "lesser" being. It is my hope that what I have written will in some way increase the understanding people have of machines, and as a metaphor perhaps lend insight to our human interpersonal relations.

Paul E. Schoen

November 22, 1972