Donga Tshabalala – Author
All the best things the world has to offer share an introduction in common. Introductions highlight a context, a theme and a mood from which all forms of insight and inspiration can be drawn. As a mechanical engineering student, I often find myself incessantly scratching my head because of the complex theories that I have to try and comprehend. As a result, the word WHY has become fully entrenched into my psyche and the desire to understand how things work currently defines who I am. However, there is a sort of linearity to engineering that almost turns the people who pursue this career path into machines. There are theories, derivations, systems and processes that I constantly have to be mindful of. The result of this sort of thinking process is that a piece of your humanity, ethics and moral conscience is almost lost to the area of logic that now dominates the rest of your mind. Sentimentality is a luxury that seems not to exist in the minds of engineers, and what a pity it is that so many engineers take pride in such a way of thinking.
There is something about my childhood that leaves me feeling a bit disturbed. For the longest time of my life, there was never any consistency to the way that I used to live. There were rarely any paternal figures to try and emulate, except perhaps for a couple of occasions where my much older and more charismatic brother would stand up for me against the people who felt that I was easy enough to walk over. I rarely ever lived in the same house for more than three years, which made creating connections, memories and relationships far more difficult than trying to solve the differential equations that I am now accustomed to pulling out my hair over. There were rarely any opportunities for me to firmly plant my feet in the ground of any place that I found myself in. I barely even had the opportunity to forge my own understanding of who I am, and truly develop an identity to assimilate myself into. Throughout my upbringing, there has never been any indication of my being rooted in heritage or following any sort of tradition to the letter. As such, my capacity to empathize and sympathize with other people has been somewhat wanting. Living in a country characterized by ubuntu, my social awkwardness has been questioned throughout my travels in South Africa, which is my country of birth. My ability to be emotional hardly even exists, which is why I believe that engineering and I have been such a perfect fit for the past two years. However, a career choice cannot be used as an excuse to deny myself of the emotional aspect that every human being must possess in order to even be considered human. It is for this reason that my emotional side needs to undergo some major cosmetic surgery, starting with my ability to be sentimental.
It must be said that amidst the chaos of my childhood, one thing above all else gave me the greatest sense of stability and security. It is something that hides in plain sight to most people; something you never really care about until you need it or have to go somewhere. Status symbol, luxury, slave, cocoon or workhorse, this one machine can take on many forms to accommodate the very people who it serves. It is the sort of thing that people can desire or become fanatical over, even though most people only ever commit such desires to dreams and little else. The car relegated the status of the horse from enslaved mammal of transportation to leisurely recreational pet in the circles of the “well to do” of this world. In a similar manner, the invention of the car took the very principle of the carriage to which horses were attached, and turned it into an object of desire, luxury, safety and utility. Today, the concept of utility and reliability has been completely turned on its head, and we now look at cars like the very insignificant Hyundai i10 in the same way that horses were viewed about two hundred years ago – as being nothing more than an efficient means to travel from point A to B. As a matter of fact, owning a horse in some social circles today is more of a status symbol than owning the most exclusive vehicle ever conceived, even though it most likely would be less expensive, less temperamental and more efficient over a longer period of time. However, my intention is not to discuss the Hyundai i10 and its insignificant nature, my aim is to focus on everything else on four wheels or more that brings joy to the heart and turns even the most vile and abhorrent of dictators, nobility and the infamous into little children.
“As a representation of the plight of the horse due to the pursuits of humanity, it is a relief to know that humans now associate the mustang with engineering.”
“The invention of the car took the very principle of the carriage to which horses were attached, and turned it into an object of desire, luxury, safety and utility.”
“Today, the concept of utility and reliability has been completely turned on its head, and we now look at cars like the very insignificant Hyundai i10 in the same way that horses were viewed about two hundred years ago – as being nothing more than an efficient means to travel from point A to B.”
Cars are designed to provide people with nothing more than transportation, however their purpose has evolved ever since 1886. Fundamentally, the key principle of a car is fairly easy to understand (much like walking), but there is so much complexity and variety to how cars function that it becomes its own field of study. It often amazes me how easy it is that human beings can attach emotions to objects both animate and inanimate. It also surprises me that this act of attaching emotion to whatever human beings come into contact with continues to define human interaction to this day. Nothing has come close to making me feel sentimental as much as cars do, and it is through this machine that I aim to explore my ability to be sentimental by enlisting a set of vehicles that have formed part of my life – cars that have defined my upbringing, adolescence and current foray into the wilderness that is adulthood.
“Cars are designed to provide people with nothing more than transportation, however their purpose has evolved ever since 1886.”