The Butter Passing robot of Rick and Morty. Ricks’s self-aware automaton is made for the menial and mundane contrivances of butter-to-dish delivery.
We see within the first several minutes of the episode “Something Ricked This Way Comes” Rick tinkering at the kitchen table creates a small robot to deliver him Butter. But this simple butter bot is restless. It seems to be afflicted with an ontological conundrum of self, to be possessed with existential curiosity. It goes to its creator and in a metallic monotone voice asks “What is my purpose?” To which Rick replies, “you pass the butter”….
The tiny bot in a terrible realization looks down at its mortal form and says chillingly “Oh…My…God.”
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Welcome to the Club Pal
Being more than a pointless, off-the-cuff existential joke. The robot is a metaphor for the human condition. Not just the human condition I think, but the desperation of modernity.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things..”-Henry David Thoreau
With the revolutions of industry, and the enlightenment secular movements that divested God from all institutions of meaning, religious transcendent truths lacking thus reducing our lives to our relation to reality as a relation to the economic means of production.
faced with less than the utter dissatisfaction, our robot is instantly a nihilist.
We see that as the little butter bot looks down at his earthly form in reflection we can only empathize with the poised embodied imprisonment it must feel. All transcendental meaning falls away and he is left with nothing but the objective reality, in all of its cold silent meaninglessness. No God, just mundane labor.
So why create the Butter Passing Robot Sentient?
What do we do when we desire meaning? We look to a higher power. But Rick Sanchez is a poor excuse for an eternal creator. He’s proven himself to be a cruel and exploitative ruler before, running his Space ship on a car battery made out of a tiny Universe in a box.
There is sadism to the dialectic of exploitation of between a Master and a slave.
Life for Rick is pure unfettered senseless consumption of the products of the Robot’s labor. The nihilistic recognition of the slave’s identity grows out of sublimation through this toil that he performs for the master. The slave’s self-consciousness is inaugurated through the master’s needs and desires, to which the slave must learn to anticipate or perish.
But why give the robot sentience in the first place? Why give him the agency to seek meaning in a clearly meaningless existence?
The Robots slave is born out of Ricks need to avoid menial and mundane tasks. The Robot who serves butter is not much different from the wage laborer, the Restaurant owner who must appoint employ servers to the meaningless machinations of the business. Human organic flesh and bone is reduced to the robotic. Like Rick, the Employer creates money-making industries out of his own apathy and boredom of his own life. However, it could be that the mentality of the work, that it is so pathetic that without a consciousness to adequately suffer behind it, it would not be menial Butter passing. That is, the consciousness of the redundancy of menial work makes it even more meaningless.
In the movie hook when Robin Williams sits down to eat dinner with the Lost Boys, he picks up utensils ready to eat. One of the lost boys shoots down at him, no no no we don’t use those. Puzzled, Peter pan asks back, then why do you have them. We have them so that we don’t have to use them.
A part of true meaninglessness is that negation. One cannot have meaninglessness without first that existential pining for meaning.
It’s a fundamental determination that repeatedly occurs throughout the whole of existence, the meaning of which is to be clearly grasped and especially distinguished from nothing. It is sublated. The questioning of life’s meaning is not reduced to anything, nothing is immediate, what is sublated on the other hand is the result of this mediation of meaning. it is a non-being but as a result had its origin in a being, that conscious sentience seeking for purpose. The determinate still exists from which it originates.
A guy visits a cafeteria and orders coffee without cream; the waiter replies:
“Sorry, but we have run out of cream, we only have milk. Can I bring you coffee without milk?”
The proletariat laborers under Capitalism work for the belief in goodness, the purpose of life. That there is some inherent meaning behind the endless cycle of labor and consumption. But when they try to cash in the check of that meaning all they get is more of the cycle, labor, and consumption.
Rick understood the meaninglessness of the service industry so much, he incorporated an A.I. itself to comprehend its meaninglessness. Think of the millions of assembly line robots all endowed with this self-awareness. We would never endow them with such sentience, for fear of them suffering the same demoralization as the small robot Rick made. Yet we subject our fellow humans to this every day.
The Robot and Syssiphus
The Butterbot is the Sisyphean tragedy. The mythical Greek ruler was punished to spend eternally rolling a huge rock up a hill, only to have it roll back down every time it got close to the top. All those trapped in the rat race suffer from this absolutely analogous fate.
The Nazis ironically alluded to this monotonous outcry to tremendous efficiency, bending the meaning of work with the ironic quotation Arbeit Macht Frei which hung over the Auschwitz prison camp. All those behind those gates knew that Freedom only came with the sweet kiss of death. Every day the labor within became more futile and pointless potentially deadly. Work itself could not deliver the prisoner from the meaningless tournament.
When the subjective will of the individual is transcendent towards the subject of the Master, it becomes labor. Work only actualizes when it is the full embodiment of the will of the subject as an object. Not where the personhood is only as an object for the purpose, at the mercy of the employer’s will.
Humans are the only animals to pay to live on planet earth. The arguments about wage labor being voluntary are laughable at best. While the necessities to existence are held over ones head like a carrot on the end of a stick, like a delicious sword of Damocles. We see our escape from the end of our own personal Cycles of Butter delivery as futile.
Being is inextricably tied to one’s actions. Actions imprint karmic energy into the fabric of cosmic reality absolute movement towards the Summa summoraum. When one reflects on the years of servitude spent selling away one’s time and one’s life’s energy for meaningless paper and wonders themselves about the meaninglessness of this task of maintaining the machines of modernity. Misery comes as the most natural response.
But do futility and absurdity of existence, always lead to anguish?
Dude, we are only anguished because this abstraction of existing has nothing to do with passing butter. Instead, it seems to be, that the ailment is truly an ailment of our minds.
The need for meaning. That when we grasp it is unsavory. We base our existence on anticipation of a better tomorrow, yet each new day puts us one step closer to our inevitable demise; nevertheless, most people go about their daily lives as if they are blissfully unaware of the finality of death. Once the veneer of familiar romance is removed, the world reveals itself to be alien, strange, and inhuman; real knowledge is unthinkable; rational thought and science are unable to provide adequate explanations for the universe; and their narratives always collapse into pointless abstractions and allegories. That’s the ludicrous state we’re in, and “from the minute absurdity is realized, it becomes a passion, the most searing of all,” as the saying goes.
This is the difference between the Butter Robot and Sisyphus.
When Sisyphus realizes that he would eventually have to give up moving the rock up the mountain, the work becomes meaningless and ludicrous.
But what we learn is that Sysiphis gains vitality in his tribulation. Sysiphus is self-actualized in his suffrage. From his struggle, he lives his dharmic duty, his cosmic righteousness.
The Butter passing robot is the shadow of Sisyphus. Like the Butter Passing robot, Sisyphus is well aware of the absurdity of his condition, of the human experience. However, unlike the Robots descent into Nihilism, Sisyphus lives Dharmically. When the Robot meets this meaningless and objects to it and dismisses it as a naysayer to this life, Sisyphus uses it to affirm him. He sees the stone and the mountain and he says yes to it.
Be in Love with your Fate
The Credo of Sisyphus is Amor Fati. a worldview in which all experiences, including pain and struggle, are seen as beneficial or, at the very least, unavoidable. Sisyphus is the epitome of the absurd hero, he recognizes the absurdity and chooses to transcend it.
Regardless, the meaning of life is something that is sort of hidden from us. Why we are cursed into this plane of existence without the luxury of a creator to inform our being with its given theology, its Dharmic ties is futility. We have a sense of freedom, and a desire for autonomy and then we meet society with its regulations, its prohibitions its insolence. Maybe self-actualization is not the summation of potential being realized and all needs being met but perhaps a fulfillment of being despite the inability to be totally in control of situations or things.
I dunno maybe things make more sense in relation to the whole of being. Maybe we are just organs in a greater body? We can only make sense of ourselves in reflection on the whole. Perhaps the Robot shouldn’t have ended his line of questioning. but instead Why is my purpose to pass butter? With any why you can overcome any how or what…I dunno if that applies. What?