These are the days that try men's souls; the petty, perfunctory academic hurdles loom large before one's eyes. The short-sighted will feel oppressed. A flight to contemplation of the eternal grand, indifferent order of things is needed to counteract this obsession with the ephemeral. Many have turned to find peace and perspective in the pinball machine.
An all too common element in the Harvard community contemptuously dismisses the pinball machine as puerile idleness. But nothing could be further from the truth: the pinball machine is a metaphysical microcosm. It reflects, in miniature, the unchanging processes, the limitations which define man's Free Will as well as his victimization by circumstance. First of all, it demonstrates Necessity; there is a magnet, ever drawing the ball downward to let it finally rest in its groove, until it is again called upon to begin its course anew. There is Free Will when the movement of the ball fortuitously heads toward one of the flippers and is hurled back; or when the machine is skillfully struck to better the course of the ball. But the way the ball bounces -that is fate, chance, call it what you will.
And there are tragedies. The machine will tilt and all further free Will must be forfeited, when a player does not play the game properly, when he attempts to overleap the limitations set upon him, strikes too hard and upsets the balance of things.
The good players have their reward-free games to those who reverence the machine and will not tilt, who use the flippers at the right time and the right place. When the final score is all added up in the end, the machine, with its unfailing precision, indicates how many more games can be played without the insertion of a nickel.
The large number of pinball fanatics, then, is not surprising. Indeed, there are many who become entranced with the mere watching of this process, although they do not trust themselves to play. Ask these people-both the players and the watchers-whether the pinball machine is a mere frivolity. Far from that, they will tell you, this invention is one of the most profound and marvelous of the machine age: it is a thing which can restore the soul and give evidence of things unseen.