Plug and Play

On the narrow range and shallowness of our knowledge

Though using a wide variety of clever devices daily, few of us know how they work. Our roles in society are so specialized, and our cars and computers so sophisticated that most of us do not understand how they operate and can not fix them. All that matters to us is that our things work reliably and conveniently. It’s become a matter of form yielding to function, of principles and parts reducing to plug and play. I often dare to analyze the principles and parts of a computer or a car engine but am rudely awakened by my narrow range and shallow depth of knowledge.

When we enter a passenger jet, we take our seats, belt up and settle in, feeling reasonably confident that we will arrive safely at our destination. However, we are like rats trapped in a cage at the mercy of a hundred thousand parts that make up our flying machine, and the reliable skill of a few aircraft mechanics back at the airport.

We have now become gods that can fly like Icarus, brother of Prometheus. He tried to reach the sun to escape his island imprisonment using wax wings, but the higher he flew, the hotter it got until his wings melted, and he crashed to earth. With our having become gods, gravity is no longer a force absolute but relative to our collective skills and knowledge. But as gods with such fabulous machines, we have begun to think the Truth, like gravity, is relative and no longer absolute, and wonder why our wings melt on trying to reach the Son.


Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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