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"The Spirit Behind All" Treating machines and people w/respect, love & understanding

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  • "The Spirit Behind All" Treating machines and people w/respect, love & understanding

    This may be slightly OT but it does apply to machines and tools and addresses how we can best utilize the machines we have. I wrote this in 1972 - hard to believe it's been 43 years!


    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
    Paul , P S Technology, Inc. and MrTibbs
    USA Maryland 21030

  • #2
    Nice essay. It takes me back to Robert Pirsig's "Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance".

    “The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn't any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it's right. If it disturbs you it's wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.”

    “The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of the mountain, or in the petals of a flower. To think otherwise is to demean the Buddha - which is to demean oneself.”
    ― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
    "People will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time they will pick themselves up and carry on" : Winston Churchill


    • #3
      Machining is therapy for me, and it seems I'm not the only one who uses it as such.


      • #4
        I can totally relate to way you wrote as I've never been so attached & loved a machine am much as my 1938 Taylorcraft. It was as we were one, I didn't have to think of what to do when flying her, she was like on extension or part of myself. Very sad day when she went to Brazil but I believe she will be loved as it cost the owner a tidy sum to get it packed & shipped & the trip here with his German mechanic. Very interesting day, myself hardly no help at all, a German mechanic that spoke no English, the buyer who spoke a very little bit, a South African & a friend from Portugal that spoke good English & many tons of machinery between her & the hanger door. I had hopes of skydancing with her on her 100th birthday Dec 24, 2038. Life goes on.


        • #5
          Paul, the ideas in your essay strike a resonant chord with a science fiction or steampunk alternate history that I am writing. Your essay has delved into the rational and relationship and attitude between man and machine. I find it to be a valuable reference that validates my own thoughts in the story.

          A couple of excerpts:
          In the early days of the Twentieth Century, Flint Michigan has become the Automaton City. A chance gathering of talented individuals and the transformation of the horse-drawn carriage trade into the auto industry set the stage for the rise of the Flint automatons. They were devised and put to work in many aspects of society; certainly and foremost in the auto factories, but in other areas as well, ranging from the noble, to the prosaic, to the depraved.

          It was established early on, that society preferred that its automatons appear somewhat human. Indeed, it became the convention that seemed to carry over into other areas. People preferred balance and bilateral symmetry; the front end of a motor car seems to resemble a face with two headlights for eyes, the bumper resembling a mouth, and so on.

          Being around a headless or grossly deformed automaton, as with being around a person who has been maimed or has suffered some hideous disfigurement, many people experienced unease, discomfort, distress, and in rare cases, physical illness. Even when the deformation or the absence of unneeded features enhanced, or at least didn’t degrade the automaton’s performance, such features were retained in the design of the automaton.

          In the foundry, heavy, massive automatons toiled tirelessly, lifting hot iron castings from the sand and placing them on a conveyor, the movements dictated by cams, by the profiles, the slopes, the rises, the falls and the dwells of the rotating disks and follower rollers, coupled to other levers, gears, cables and shafts.

          For the simple but grueling tasks performed by these brutes, only a single set of cams suffice, turning one revolution to complete a cycle, each cam disk guiding an arm or leg or knee or wrist to move in concert with other cams, each directing a part of the motion, to cause the whole body to lift and place castings, over and over again in mindless repetition.

          Elsewhere in the manufactory, an automaton may be called upon to exercise limited judgment in the course of its motions; measure a dimension, judge the weight, gauge the smoothness of a surface. Depending upon the measurement, a lever might shift a clutch, engaging an alternate set of cams to direct the automaton to place a defective part in a reject bin.

          Most industrial automatons toiled mute, deaf and blind to their surroundings, attached captive to their work stations, gaining the power to perform their task from a coupled line shaft or from a periodic winding of their coiled mainspring by a maintenance man or even by another automaton.

          The impressive brute force of the heavy industrial automaton was soon transformed into entertainment in the form of the boxing automaton. These engines of mayhem ranged from relatively delicate spring driven pugilists to massive steam powered gladiators, veritable juggernauts.

          And, a more "delicate" machine application for entertainment...

          It was late Saturday night and Roland was strolling home in the dark, coming from a rare late supper at the Kewpie Diner. As he neared a street corner where the Street Department had been doing repairs during the day, a stake rack steam truck rumbled around the corner, its rear wheel dropping into a pothole at the edge of the brick pavers. The truck bounced and the tailgate panel stakes jumped from their pockets, the tailgate falling from the back of the truck, along with what appeared through the darkness to be several bodies, one rolling into a trench behind the Street Department barricades. Roland shouted and the truck came to a stop. As he neared the truck, the driver climbed down from the cab.

          “Hey, sport, mind giving me a hand with these?” The driver seemed unconcerned about the bodies that had fallen into the street. Aghast, Roland followed the driver around to the bodies scattered near the rear of the truck. “These old gals have seen better days”, the driver remarked as he dragged one by the arm out of the opposite traffic lane. As Roland drew closer, he was relieved to see that the bodies, illuminated in the red glow of the kerosene tail lantern, were just automatons – Tin Lizzies – used as cheap mechanical prostitutes.

          “Here sport, here’s a pair of gloves, you never know where these things have been. You grab the legs and I’ll get the arms and we’ll throw ‘er back up on the truck.” Roland was surprised at how light the body was.
          As they were retrieving the second automaton, Roland asked, “What will happen to these?”
          “Ahh, you dirty dog,” the driver grinned, “I know what you’re thinking. Well, you can’t have one; a decent guy like you will just have to go down to the whorehouse where these came from. But here,” he yanked the automaton’s dress open, showing the naked rubber flesh underneath, “I’ll give you a little peek. These old clapped out broads are off to the scrapper, with maybe a stop along the way, if you know what I mean.” The driver leered and winked and then went off to retrieve the next automaton. As Roland and the driver lifted the next body, it jerked and then shuddered, causing Roland to lose his grip and drop his end of the load.
          “They’ll do that from time to time, if the mainspring ain’t wound down all the way. We’ll put this one on last; she’s still got some life in her and me and her are going to have some fun,” the driver said, rubbing his hands together. As they approached the next automaton, Roland remembered the one that had rolled into the trench. He was about to speak, but then stopped, instead turning to bend and grasp the arms of the automaton nearest him.

          As they finished loading what appeared to be the last of the Tin Lizzies onto the truck, this one more gently at the driver’s behest, Roland quickly went and dragged the tailgate over, not giving the driver time to look about more carefully. As they finished setting the gate in place, Roland handed his gloves back to the driver and grinned. “Have a good evening.”
          Again, the driver leered and rolled his eyes toward the tailgate and grinned, “Oh, I will, oh will I. Thanks for the help, sport.”

          As the truck chugged out of sight, leaving a trail of smoke and steam vapor, Roland looked about him. There was no one else in view in the street and the buildings on the corner were all businesses, their windows dark. He went to the shallow trench, no more than a foot deep, and found the Tin Lizzie lying on its side in the bottom of the trench. Reaching down, he pulled the automaton by the arms into a sitting position and then to stand on its own two feet. He was surprised when he began to pull it from the hole to the pavement that it stepped up and then stood and balanced, unsupported. This one also must have some mainspring power left, he thought. Holding the automaton by one arm, Roland led the automaton to step forward. It followed obediently, though with a heavy limp.
          No timetable for completion is projected, probably won't be soon.
          Weston Bye - Author, The Mechatronist column, Digital Machinist magazine
          ~Practitioner of the Electromechanical Arts~


          • #6
            The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

            Bluewater Model Engineering Society at

            Southwestern Ontario. Canada


            • #7
              See what has been discovered now by thousands of doctors and scientists as well as lay persons regarding
              our consciousness or spirit which is now regarded not to be manufactured or contained in our brain.Try you tube see the interview with heart surgeon Dr pim van lomell, or Lommel spelling absolutely fascinating he was a cardiologist and now has decided to dedicate the rest of his life to these studies.Alistair
              Please excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease


              • #8
                Reminds me of something I heard of yesterday, a show about OCD people, one guy "Loved" his car, rubbed it, kissed it and of course even more unmentionable stuff (Yuck!).

                But later in another conversation about growing too old and having to get rid of machines I related that my machines were like my dear friends, seriously, and that I felt a respect for both the machines themselves and the minds that designed them, and how hard it would be to let them go. I have two full size steam engines that do nothing for me of any real value, and the wife says they should go. They should never be melted down and made into refrigerators.

                Maybe I'm becoming a little OCD myself.

                But my machine tools have been my daily helpers, one manual mill cost about $8K many years ago and paid us back within 6 months, and kept paying us through the years. Yes, indeed, I care deeply about the machine. The CNC's have been like my own mints running every day, hard to ignore friends like that. But I've never confused any of them as being human.


                • #9
                  gasp .. I thought Old Hat was back for a sec.
                  John Titor, when are you.


                  • #10
                    I'd like to see him back even if he does rub some people up the wrong way.

                    He was a very good contributor and in that sense he has a lot to offer.


                    • #11
                      I can't say that I've ever "loved" a machine or pretty well all or most results of considerable creativity by people but I certainly do appreciate the thought and skills that went into them and the way they meet the intent and purpose they were designed and made for.

                      I have no regard for any personal relationship to or for anything that is inanimate or is not human and I sure do not regard or treat any machine or tool as if they had those qualities or attributes.

                      In other words I do not "love" a machine or tool or similar nor do I regard it as an icon or statue or similar to be loved or worshipped - at all.

                      Nor is my shop a house of worship in any way at all nor is it a tabernacle or repository for sacred things - at all.

                      I do not seek to denigrate nor criticise nor ridicule any who may hold any of those views that I do not.

                      It will come as no surprise perhaps that I am pretty well a solid agnostic and atheist - or an agnostic atheist.

                      And that - to me anyway - fits in nicely to be my response to the title of this thread - which is:

                      "The Spirit Behind All Treating machines and people w/respect, love & understanding".
                      Last edited by oldtiffie; 05-03-2015, 10:42 PM.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Mike Amick View Post
                        gasp .. I thought Old Hat was back for a sec.
                        Damn. Beat me to it.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by oldtiffie View Post
                          I'd like to see him back even if he does rub some people up the wrong way.

                          He was a very good contributor and in that sense he has a lot to offer.
                          I agree - an informative poster when on topic. I learned to skip his off-topic pontification.


                          • #14
                            I would have agreed in treating tools with respect until..........

                            The until part is when I have a contractor working on my property . And,
                            he has five guys that cost me fifty bucks/hour each.

                            I know the contractor very well and since the project is near my shop I loan them tools occasionally. They usually do some damage or destroy them. I object and the answer is, don't sweat it, we'll buy you a new one. Or would you rather have the guys twiddling their thumbs while someone run to get a tool.


                            • #15
                              If the contract is on an "hourly rate" then you will get charged for any extras - mostly.

                              But if it is a "fixed price" contract then an extras etc. (ie extra hours) are normally at the expense of the contractor - mostly.

                              I don't lend tools - period - and I don't like others that I don't know into my shop either - obvious reasons.

                              If I have an hourly rate then I want a +/- 10% indicative cost - before the quote is accepted.