Broken Machines

Broken Machines by Dr. Scott Yorkovich

Photo by carnifex82, Available at

Every machine has a purpose. Looking at my desk, I see a number of machines and the purpose of each is apparent. The pen writes. The radio receives signals and converts them into sound. The lamp illuminates. The keyboard translates key presses into electrical signals. The monitor displays colored pixels. The inventor or manufacturer of each is proud to see the machine being used for its intended purpose because in each case it is making life better for people.

In this sense, people are like machines, too. We each have a purpose. Our creator designed each of us with a unique combination of gifts and talents, personality and temperament wiring, and family and cultural circumstances. All of these combine to create a unique purpose with the goal to make life better for others, but more importantly to glorify that creator, God.

What happens, though, when a machine is broken? Of course, the machine is no longer able to fulfill its purpose. It is no longer effective at making life better for others and honoring its creator. A recent book, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” has a brief dialogue that captures this thought:

“Did you ever notice that all the machines are made for some reason. They are built to make you laugh, … or to tell the time, … or to fill you with wonder…. Maybe that’s why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn’t able to do what it was meant to do…. Maybe it’s the same with people. If you lose your purpose … it’s like you’re broken.”1

Like the main character in this story, my father-in-law, Darald, also fixes and cares for clocks. As I sit at my desk writing, I hear the tick-tock of a clock that he fixed and gave to me as a gift. The clock keeps fairly accurate time and it brings me joy when I think about the hours that Darald invested to make it work. When people bring broken clocks to Darald, there is often a sense of sadness that the clock is not fulfilling its purpose. Yet there is also hope that it soon will. Darald has shared with me a number of stories of clock owners who were, when presented with their working clock, overjoyed that their precious machine, their clock, once again fulfills its purpose.

A machine either works or it doesn’t. It either fulfills its purpose or it doesn’t. People are different than machines because we have self-awareness and free will. People are able to decide whether to fulfill their purpose. However, there are three problems with this:

  • Often, people do not know their purpose.
  • Whether they know their purpose or not, people often choose to ignore it and determine their own purpose.
  • People are often abused by others and do not allow them to fulfill their purpose.

The third problem is a horrendous scenario repeated the world over, but I won’t tackle that now. The root of the first two problems is knowing one’s purpose. Because of self-awareness and free will, a “person machine” cannot fulfill its purpose if that purpose is not known. I believe each of us has an inner gauge that indicates whether or not we know and are fulfilling that purpose. When that gauge indicates “Purpose Being Fulfilled>/i>,” the individual knows it and feels the blessings of making other’s lives better and of honoring the Creator!

Do you know you purpose? Do you know why you are here, in this particular place and time? How did you discover that?

1: The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick, p. 374

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