My Beloved Robot Arm

In the second episode of the first season of “Invader Zim” entitled “Parent Teacher Night”, we are given a glimpse into the birthing process for Irkin invaders. A flashback by Zim shows him being extracted from a pod, cleaned, and equipped by a series of machines. Finally a recorded voice booms, “Welcome to life, Irkin child. Report for duty.” In a moment of infantile naiveté, the young Zim leaps up to hug the mechanical arm that has given him life and exclaims, “I love you cold, unfeeling robot arm!”

It seems like a simple joke, but I recently realized that it is an apt metaphor for a disturbing element of my life. I am (in the general case) a caring and giving person, concerned about the well-being of others and giving of myself (as my friend Tim observed) “until there is no more to give.” This works fine for my relationships and friendships, though it tires me out at times and I need to remember to periodically take care of myself before giving to others.

Unfortunately, I seem to relate to my company in much the same way. I give not just work but love to an entity incapable of returning that love. My employer is that “cold, unfeeling robot arm.” Investing a soulful emotion of affection in entity that cannot return anything similar to that emotion is so absurd as to be a punch line in a cartoon. Yet I do it repeatedly. I offer up each bug fix and release as if it were a bundle of posies picked out of love and desire for approval. Without fail, each offering is acknowledged with cold indifference.

It’s not that my company is failing me. It is doing what it is supposed to do. It has one thing to offer that is love-like (money), but will withhold that as much as possible (for money is its essence of being). The ridiculous end of this exchange is my own. It is improper for me to seek the love of something that cannot give it. Certainly I will continue to seek the friendship and approval of those human beings within the company, but it is high time I discontinue this one-sided emotional relationship which causes me nothing but disappointment. I can take joy in the elegance of code, the satisfaction of a job well done, and camaraderie of coworkers. But I must not invest myself emotionally with the company itself. It is a different being altogether and I shall interact with it only according to the rules of give and take it understands.

It is time for me to “break up” with my beloved robot arm. I’m sure it won’t shed a tear.  Hopefully I’ll be able to handle having it as an employer, not a lover.