The Machine

As you know, the concept of the suction pump is centuries old. Really, that’s all this is, except that instead of sucking water, I’m sucking life. I’ve just sucked one year of your life away. I might one day go as high as five, but I really don’t know what that would do to you.

—Count Rugen, The Princess Bride

The Machine is lost knowledge. It is a complex anachronism, a tide line aged into inscrutability.

In 1900, divers off the the Greek island Antikythera discovered a shipwreck containing several sculptures and a complex geared machine embedded in a rock. The machine, dubbed the Antikythera Device, baffled scientists, as the wreck was thought to date from the first century BCE but the Device itself utilized engineering techniques not rediscovered until fifteen centuries later.

The Machine indicates not just a flowering of knowledge and technology, but also the subsequent destruction of that knowledge. The Machine is never merely an antique reminder of a style long out of fashion, but always an aberration; a coelacanth threatening and vital in modern waters.

Following the destruction of the Roman empire, much of imperial viticulture was lost. While wine cultivation continued throughout Europe, it was centuries before the generational toil of monks rediscovered techniques detailed in Columella’s first century CE work De Re Rustica.

But it is also always the rediscovery of those techniques. It is the forest before the fire, the fire itself, and the green spiral of new growth through the ashes. The Machine therefore represents the eternal wheel of the life of the mind, which spins through dark ages and light, and where every point is a new point on the same wheel.