Thursday, November 1, 2012

What's Your Pinball

If I told what it takes
to reach the highest high,
You'd laugh and say "nothings that simple."

 Pete Townsend

In 1969, more than a decade before Mihály Csíkszentmihályi's experiments on Flow, Pete Townsend and the Who explained the phenomena quite accurate in their rock opera Tommy. Frightened and abused into a catatonic state, the apparently "deaf, dumb and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball." The enlightened state induced by the game sets Tommy free.

He stands like a statue,
Becomes part of the machine.
Feeling all the bumpers
Always playing clean.
He plays by intuition,
The digit counters fall.
That deaf dumb and blind kid,
Sure plays a mean pinball!

He ain't got no distractions
Can't hear those buzzers and bells.
Don't see no lights a flashing,
Plays by sense of smell.
Always gets a replay,
Never tilts at all.
That deaf dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball!

Whether you call it "flow", "in the zone", or "in the groove", all of us have been so absorbed with an activity that nothing else seems to matter. This feeling of total involvement, when ego falls away and time flies, brings a sense of elation unlike any other.

For Tommy, that sense of elation came from playing pinball. For others it might be playing golf, skiing, building a website, writing a blog post, quilting, playing the guitar or questing in Worlds of Warcraft.

To reach the flow state, there must be a balance between the challenge of the task and the skill of the individual. The skill level and challenge level must be matched and high.

When do you feel the joy of total concentration?  What's your Pinball?

I'm free
I'm free
And freedom tastes of reality
I'm free

I'm free
And I'm waiting for you to follow me

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