Objects & Idols

I’ve spent the good part of this holiday programming a fiesty, Martian cactus who is trying to ward off an incoming drone invasion. The drones counterattack by dropping sombrero hats and displaying passive aggressive banners. If the cactus has been hatted one too many times, it can power-up by catching a donut.

The game was a group project for engineering, and our (cacti-infested) rendition turned out fancifully well, in my opinion. I am rather biased, though. We spent DAYS working on it over the semester (seriously, if you add up the hours…it’s definitely in the days).

Long projects are so much more enjoyable when you make friends to help you through. One would think I speak of the people with whom I worked, and though I did have a super-awesome group of talented partners, I’m actually talking about the cactus.

As a child I always wondered how there could be stories of people worshipping idols they had made. It did not seem logical; if you’d made it yourself, how could you possibly think it powerful enough to put yourself below it?

While I wouldn’t go so far as to start holding Sunday services for donut-devouring cactii, I can perhaps understand, through a steep leap of imagination, how a person could become attached to a physical idol. When a situation is uncertain, rough and perhaps seemingly uncontrollable (as one might consider a semester of engineering) manufacturing a friendly face can go a long way to making it seem less so. Maybe it has something to do with protective/nurturing instincts, maybe it’s just the power of / personal preference for laughing whenever possible.

In any event, it’s probably good to remember, as both iconoclasts and iconophiles will be quick to point out, that feelings are not inherent in objects. We coded a cactus to shoot needles at exploding drones, not to make one feel joyful. And blurring that distinction can definitely bug up your mental program.

Still, it is a nice side effect. Whether the code for the side effect in life sits in the programmer or the object is a much discussed topic of debate. Can a person, for example, affect another person’s happiness? Or can material things? Can spelling donut, “donut” instead of “doughnut” really induce a fit of exasperated indignation in the more traditionally-inclined?

Maybe, but I’m not really in the mood to consider right now. In fact, all I can think about right now is that I’m feeling rather hungry, and would very much enjoy a do[ugh]nut.