Losing your marbles.

Set design for Harvey

just for fun.

"One day, as if by magic, a young boy in a very poor village, found a small, perfectly round object only half an inch across that seemed to glow with the most beautiful blue light. He carefully put the round object in his pocket and went home to show his parents. The parents were delighted because, living in a village made of beige mud they'd never seen anything so beautiful. 'If you can find more of these we could sell them and become rich.' Said the boy's father. So the boy decided to go out into the world and find out the secret of the small, perfectly round, beautiful orbs. He put the one he'd found into his pocket, packed a few sandwiches and headed off to search the world for more.

He searched far and wide and eventually heard of a famous inventor who lived in a house on a tall hill, surrounded by great trees, and though it took him days and days of walking he finally came to the house. To his amazement the garden of the house was filled with the splendid orbs. And not only blue ones but also red ones and yellow ones and clear one. And some with a wild mix of colors that seemed to shift if one held an orb between their fingers and twirled it around.

The boy knocked on the door and in a few minutes the door creaked open to reveal a very tall man with a very short beard and a pair of enormous black eyeglasses. He looked down at the boy and asked, 'What is it you want?'

And the boy answered, 'I come from a mud village far away and I found this.' He reached into his pocket and pulled out the orb and then he said, 'It is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I heard stories which told me the orbs come from here.' The the boy put the orb back into his pocket, summoned up all his courage and asked the man, 'Will you teach me how to make such beautiful objects? I want to make them and share them with the people in my village. We spend an awful lot of our time contemplating....beige mud."

The old man decided to accept the boy as his apprentice and to train him in the art of the orbs. Over the course of several years the boy learned to gather pure sand. He learned the workings of a forge and he learned how materials could be added to a hot, molten mix to create colors and patterns within the orbs. When he had finally mastered every step of the process he came to the old man and said, 'Thank you. You've taught me how to make beauty.'

'And why do you think they are so beautiful, these round orbs?' And the boy answered, 'Because it takes such skill to make them and they are each so rare. Each one is like a precious bit of gold because each one is different and unlike all the others.'  

Then the old man asked him, 'What if they were easy to make? What if there were not so rare? Would you still feel the same?' But the boy couldn't even begin to understand what the old man was asking because he was still wrapped in the joy of his own mastery. 'They will always be beautiful and people will always want them because they will always be rare and unique. People will marvel at them as I did. They take so much time and skill to make."

So the boy took his carefully written notes and his collection of orbs which he'd made himself and travled back to his beige village. When he arrived at home his parents were overjoyed to see him. And when he opened up a small leather bag and carefully spilled out this collection of orbs they were overwhelmed. They asked him all kinds of questions and he told them about his apprenticeship.

A few days later the boy opened a business. He would make the beautiful orbs and sell them to his fellow villagers. People brought him valuable goods to trade and he and his family became rich. And in every home in the village people had one or two or even three small orbs which they would look at to relieve the sameness of their visual universe. 

And then one day two young men who had learned many things from many places came to the village and saw the "orbs."  They sought out the boy and asked him how he made the orbs but the boy wouldn't say. Eventually they offered him lots of lots of money for the secret of making orbs and eventually he decided to sell them his notes and his knowledge. The men married this new knowledge with things they had learned in many places. In a short amount of time they had figured out how to make the process much quicker and how to produce many more orbs in a day than the young man had produced in months. As they learned more and more they were able to make small machines and kits of colors so that everyone could easily make the orbs.

Soon everyone in the village had the same kind of small machine and the sand required to make the orbs was free for the asking a short walk away at a beach. People stopped working at their jobs to make orbs. Mothers ignored their hungry children in order to make orbs. The making of beautiful orbs became so addictive that soon everyone in the village was spending all their waking hours making orbs. They remembered that the boy who first made orbs had become rich by making them and the villagers were certain that they too could become rich.

After a time there were so many orbs just lying around on the floors of the houses and the streets of the village that walking became dangerous. People began to slip and slide and fall because of the orbs. A few weeks later the streets became filled with the orbs and were unnavigable. All other commerce ceased. The orbs then started to fill  up the farmlands and that created additional woes. 

Most of the people who'd bought the orb machines were frustrated. Here they were making beautiful orbs, just as beautiful as the orbs that the boy who discovered them had made and yet no one else in the village was buying the orbs. A man came into town who taught the villagers something called "workshops." He could, he said, teach them how to make different orbs that would appeal to buyers. Many people took the workshop and began to make bigger and smaller orbs. And opaque orbs. And orbs that looked like a cat's eye. But as soon as they learned how to make the different sizes and colors and shapes so did everyone else. Afterall, they'd taken the same workshop.

Months later there were so many orbs that small children could not see over the top of them and they covered every flat area of the village. Now the orbs were everywhere. And in everything. And the price of the orbs had dropped to zero.  Some people in the village could make better orbs or orbs with brighter colors and they thought perhaps these clearly superior orbs would bring some price in the market but people were so weary of seeing so many examples of orbs at every waking hour that the new and more beautiful orbs were lost in the infinite selection of orbs. 

Finally, the town council convened and they decided that the orbs had become a risk to health and commerce. But even more, the ubiquity of the orbs caused them to become an eyesore. They crowded out all other expression. So a company was hired to come in with shovels and carts and load up the orbs and drive them away to another location and dump them. And the village breathed a unified sigh of relief. 

It was then that the old man who'd given the boy the secret of creating orbs came into town to see how his apprentice had fared. He met with the boy and they went out for a walk. The boy told him the story of the endless supply of orbs. 'Interesting.' said the old man. 'So the village finally lost its marbles?!' And the young boy looked up at him and asked, "What are marbles?" And the old man smiled and said, "They are what beautiful orbs turn into after they have been mass produced."

'I'm sad." said the boy. 'Why?' asked the old man.

'Because for a time the orbs seemed so beautiful and it took such talent to make them. People would pay well for a nicely made orb, and then they became so ordinary and so common that they lost almost all of their value. I wish there were something new I could do that would always take skill and vision and would always have value..."

The old man looked at him for a few minutes and cleared his throat. "Do you know about photography?" He asked.


  1. LOL...A fable drawn from an accidental meeting between Hansel and Gretel and The Twilight Zone? Oh delicious irony ;) !!!

  2. What a great little "fairy tale"! I get the picture ... and the message.

    But, maybe the little boy just needed a get a new orb making device. Yea, that's it! It would rekindle his interest in orb making and inspire him to become more creative in the craft of orb making. Even without a market for the orbs, his personal satisfaction of mastering the art of orb making would be all that he would need. Or would it? ;-)

  3. A great story, thanks.


Comments. If you disagree do so civilly. Be nice or see your comments fly into the void. Anonymous posters are not given special privileges or dispensation. If technology alone requires you to be anonymous your comments will likely pass through moderation if you "sign" them. A new note: Don't tell me how to write or how to blog!