Grant McCracken: Mikal Built A Magical Box

What is the strange appeal of Mikal Hart’s creation, and what can we learn from it?

Mikal Hart built a magical box.

This box.

It’s a box that knows where it is.

It remains closed and locked until it is transported to exactly the right place on the planet. Then it springs open

If we push that button anywhere else on the planet, the book stays locked. And a figure appears in the window. It’s up to us to surmise that this is a measure in miles and that the box wants to go home. We are allowed to push the button 50 times. After that the box locks forever.

Mikal can’t quite figure out why the box is so interesting. (See the Youtube video below.) He built the first one as a wedding gift for friends.

When word leaked out about Mikal’s box, the world went a little crazy. He got calls from journalists all over the place. The journalists can’t quite figure out why the box is so interesting either.

In short, Mikal isn’t quite sure why he made the box. And those journalists aren’t quite sure why they called him about it. And, yes, sure, ok, I’m not sure why I’m writing about it.

We’re all in the thrall of the box.

The magic of the box is not so much in the “what” and the “how” of the box. it works on a principle that Mikal calls “reverse geocache.” Geocaching gives us coordinates so that we can find a box. Mikal’s geocache gives us a box so we can find coordinates. Lovely and clever, but not quite magical.

The magic of the box is in the “why” of the box. Specifically why it is we all find it so very arresting.

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