long before it was the title of a sci-fi psychological thriller, the term was coined by the ancient greeks. literally translated to “god from the machine,” it refers to a god introduced into a play to resolve the entanglements of the plot.
today it’s an improbable plot twist used to clear up the conflicts encountered by the main character. think of the cavalry in classic westerns swooping in to save the damsel in distress, tied to the train tracks and seconds away from being flattened by a speeding freight train. or the magic kiss from prince charming that finally awakens snow white from her poison-apple-induced slumber.
as human beings, we’re wired to believe in the magic bullet, the ticket to a tidy resolution to whatever ails us. “if only i had…that life, that job, that house, that family, that award, that (fill in the blank) to make it all better.”
and fairy tales and movies and shiny stories tied up in bows only perpetuate our belief in that cavalry coming—sometime, somehow—to save the day. the myth leaves us in a strange place… living, yet waiting…to find true happiness or reach our full potential.
there is a great passage in the classic dr. seuss story, “oh the places you’ll go,” that sums it up perfectly. “The Waiting Place…”
but that thing that you’re waiting for may never come. or once you’ve got it, there will be a whole heaping helping of more where that came from.
imagine all the things you may have missed—in those moments of waiting, of longing, of spinning or distraction—forward and forward, before realizing what you actually had in the moment.
as heroes of our own story, we are desperate to map out the big story arc, to understand how to shed our baggage and connect all the dots toward a satisfying resolution. but setting our sights solely on the epic climax leaves countless seconds, minutes, hours, days, even lifetimes, on the table: overlooked, forgotten, perhaps half-lived or never fully appreciated.
what if we shifted our whole perception of the narrative?
instead of waiting for that grand epiphany, perhaps the answer lies in all the experiences along the way—of beauty, truth, connection, trying and failing and picking ourselves back up again. instead of the big story arc, it’s the small, pure moments that define us, inspire us, heal us, and make us who we are.
maybe the driving force en route to save the day isn’t the chiseled-chin, bulging bicepped superman, but underdog, the unlikely anti-hero, the symbol of forgotten moments and the little things in life that are pure, yet incredibly powerful.
and that “god from the machine”? maybe it’s not somewhere out there at all—but much closer to home—inside ourselves and how we choose to approach every single day.