The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

Etch A Sketch

For those of us of a certain age, this shiny red object was a staple in our childhood. One of my favorite toys; I was fascinated with the ways I could simply turn knobs and watch as, seemingly by magic, lines both squiggly and straight, would form under the surface of the plastic. I never cared about the technology involved and I still don’t since it would spoil the mystery. I do take into consideration that some of my readers would want to know the science behind the fun.

Here is what wikipedia has to say about it:


“Etch A Sketch is a mechanical drawing toy invented by French inventor André Cassagnes and subsequently manufactured by the Ohio Art Company.

An Etch A Sketch has a thick, flat gray screen in a distinctive red plastic frame. There are two knobs on the front of the frame in the lower corners. Twisting the knobs moves a stylus that displaces aluminium powder on the back of the screen, leaving a solid line. The knobs create lineographic images. The left control moves the stylus horizontally, and the right one moves it vertically.


The Etch A Sketch was introduced near the peak of the Baby Boom in 1960, and is one of the best known toys of that generation. It was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York in 1998. In 2003, the Toy Industry Association named Etch A Sketch to its Century of Toys List, a roll call commemorating the 100 most memorable and most creative toys of the 20th century.[1]


Tonight, My friend Mike Chadwick posted this observation on Facebook that had me thinking about the idea of an Etch A Sketch world view:

“This world is like a 3D Etch a Sketch. You build and do things and with a shake in time they are erased.” My response was “But then you get to create a new picture.”  What if it really was that simple?  We are creative beings by nature and have the tools to design our lives as we would like. The thing is, the knobs on the toy can only draw finite shapes and the images are not always flowing. Hmmmm….that’s kind of like life as well. Although we are infinite in many ways, the limitations of this human body lend themselves to certain restrictions. We may have a particular vision for the picture of our existence, but sometimes the end result is a wee bit off from our original intent. And then there’s this shaking thing…like the toy, our lives may feel as if they are in the hands of a child who wants to start anew. “But wait a minute,” we object, “I like this picture as it is and don’t want it to go away.” Guess what, nothing lasts forever in the form it is in.


Several years ago, I had the experience of witnessing for the first time (I have seen it a few times since then), a group of Tibetan monks create a sand mandala. It is always imbued with the energy of healing or love or prayer of some type. It can take days to create and then with a flick of a finger and swish of a brush, all of the brilliant colors and intricate designs become a pile of grey, non-descript sand. This illustrates the Buddhist concept of impermanence. If I am able to see my life in the same way, no less an exquisite creation because sometimes the color and vibrance fades to mush, I will be better equipped to create anew. And if I can view my life as a shiny red toy, made for my amusement, trusting in infinite do-overs, then every day is meant for play. Shake it up, baby!

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