Sunday, October 23, 2011

Solemn Sunday soliloquy

If someone were to ask me today, 'Tim, what's on your mind?' I would unhesitatingly reply, 'buttons'. Do you know how many buttons there are in the world today? Lots. There is a plethora of buttons, a preponderance of knobs, a multiplicity of widgets and bits and switches and keys and what-nots which you can press in order to send countless electronic signals flying all over the place at light speed, telling this to open, that to close, the other thing to light up, rotate, turn, twist, spin, or do something else altogether.

Is there at some point a limit that we are going to reach, a set quota of buttons beyond which the human race cannot go, a moment of 'peak button' after which we will run out of new buttons to create? You'd think so, wouldn't you, but then again, no. For even as we speak, I've no doubt new buttons for new purposes are being created, buttons created in response to the ever-growing need for buttons, pleasing round metallic things to be pressed by fingers which long to press pleasing round metallic things. They've even started putting virtual buttons on computers, virtual buttons which you have to press other buttons on your keyboard in order to get to, before moving a symbolic finger over the top of them, in order to have the pleasure of pressing the real button which in turn operates the symbolic finger which causes the virtual button to be pressed, virtually. If you ever explained this to someone from 50 years ago, they would think you were mad; they would wonder why anyone should do such a thing. But we do this sort of thing these days with alarming regularity.

Buttons! What is the point of them? Things have got to the point these days where you will press a button even if you don't expect it to do anything; sometimes you will just press a button for fun: sometimes you will do it and not even know why you are doing it. I was on the train the other day and a wriggling young lad of no more than two years old gave the big, friendly red button on the carriage a hearty press; in due course, a kindly old gentleman rang through to find out what perfidy was being perpetrated and I had to explain to him what had happened. And yet I do not blame the child; while I am standing at a street corner I will press the traffic light button repeatedly in order to make it go green faster. At a train station I can barely refrain from pressing the green button in order to hear a friendly voice inform me just when, exactly, the train is coming - indeed, I notice a good deal of my fellow passengers press that button anyway, even though the train timetable is right next to them, even if they have just been looking at it. And, as anyone who reads any books or looks at any television knows, big red buttons - especially big red buttons which have signs next to them saying DO NOT PRESS THIS BIG RED BUTTON - are there to be pressed.

There is something Freudian about all of this; buttons were invented for a reason, sure, but this has to be different from the reason for which, er, we invented buttons. What are these shiny steel protuberances, these painted pustules, these plump proliferating steel implements really, but symbols; what on earth could that bright, shiny red button be to the extended finger of the child, reaching closer, ever closer, but a voluptuous object of sensual longing, beckoning to the finger to press it, just press it, to keep on pressing it, until...

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you buttons.


Anonymous said...

Surely Tim there will come a time when the big red button will be completely virtual, requiring only our minds to control it. What to do with our fingers then?

TimT said...

Maybe we'll just let the fingers decide.

TimT said...

Ah yes, I knew it was there somewhere: the ultimate in pointless meaningless buttons.

Anonymous said...

Sentient fingers - excellent concept. I'd love to watch each of my ten wander off for a bit of excitement. Provided my brain could still appreciate what they touch....

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