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Steampunk: The Perpetual Motion Machine

“Perpetual motion is motion of bodies that continues indefinitely. A perpetual motion machine is a hypothetical machine that can do work indefinitely without an energy source. This kind of machine is impossible, as it would violate the first or second law of thermodynamics.”


(Some thoughts from Jeff Mach.)

I will admit that I am not a physicist; indeed, all I know about the first law of thermodynamics is that you don’t talk about the first law of thermodynamics.  And I may actually be confusing that with “Fight Club”.

But Steampunk is perpetually in motion, and it never needs to stop.  That’s because it is metaphysics in physical form.

No, seriously.  You don’t have to be mystical about the human mind in order to note that while we have a great deal of understanding of the workings of the human brain, and we can track many things about consciousness, we’re far from knowing how our own sentience works.  Ask the basic question: “How can we be happy?” – and we find no simple scientific solution.  You could theoretically stimulate the pleasure centers a whole lot, but that’s not exactly happiness–that’s intoxication.  Clear-headed, conscious, thinking happiness?  That’s not an easy thing.

How Does That Relate To Steampunk?

Now think about Steampunk.  Steampunk is a consciously-defined, made-up, imaginary thing.  And it’s constantly being made, remade, and re-imagined all around the world.  In the time it takes you to go to bed and then wake up, literally hundreds of people might have created new Steampunk ideas, done new Steampunk things–or simply used the unrestrained whimsy and peculiar appeal of Steampunk to alter the way people around them experience their social movements, their thoughts, their understanding of human interactions.

It sounds strange that something so silly could do so much.  And yet it does.

I’m not (completely) a starry-eyed dreamer.  I do recognize that tons of the Steampunk that gets created is similar to other Steampunk; that not everyone is a Picasso, re-framing the doors of perception; that sometimes, it’ just about people walking around in funny hats.  But that’s okay.

Steampunk doesn’t need some standard of utter originality to be powerful.  Things that are derivative still move us; and they highlight and emphasize those Steampunk creations which are deeply unique.

Steampunk is always moving; it need never stop.  It’s perpetual motion, an unreal thing which is expressed throughout our reality.  It’s a walking, talking, goggle-wearing paradox.

Perpetual motion is real.  Steampunk is real.  Because, as Robert Anton Wilson said,

“Reality is what you can get away with.”

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