There was a very brief time in my life where I rejected Lego. VERY brief. As a teenager it's normal for you to buck old habits in an effort to "find yourself". I gave up things I loved because they were "beneath" me. In some people, I've seen this last decades. Thankfully for me, it only lasted around a year, before I came back to my senses and realized that ignoring things I love will not make me more mature.
I fronted like I was too grownup to play Lego, or to climb trees, or to roll around in the grass.
I guess, like any other young man, I did it to try and appeal to "the ladies". Luckily, I quickly realized I don't want to be with anyone who doesn't love that I love Lego. I don't want to hold the hand of someone who will scoff at me for wanting to briefly let go of that hand to roll down a grassy hill until I'm dizzy. I don't want to commit to anyone who will tell me not to climb a tree.
So fast forward to my adulthood, and I've embraced Lego for the therapeutic vice that it has become.
I NEED it in my life. It saves me from myself all the time. It's a way for me to forget about the stress of being grown, and be creative for no reason other then it feels good.
I've learned many very valuable life lessons from Lego. Building with it last night reminded me of several of these, and I'd like to share them.
First Lesson Lego taught me: In order to create, one must first destroy.
This is a pretty big deal. And I was fortunate enough to learn it at a very young age. With all of my creative endeavors, I always feel like the things I create are gifts. Lego, drawing, writing, singing... none of it ever ceases to astound me. I'm THRILLED at the things that come out of my brain. Often times, I would build something that was SO GOOD, I couldn't fathom HOW I had come up with it. It still happens! Only now, I've simply come to terms with the fact that I am gifted. No no no. I don't mean it like that. Not in a swollen ego kind of "look at me, I'm so great" way. But in a "thank you so much to the universe for every single one of these gifts, and I pray I may never take them for granted! I am aware that my eyes and arms and even life could be taken from me tomorrow, so I will marvel and delight at the magic while I have it! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU FOR THESE GIFTS!" That kind of Gifted.
So, when I would build these things (usually Space Ships) I would stare at them in disbelief! Sometimes, they would be so good, that I'd put them on my shelf and display them for weeks, even MONTHS at a time. I was so floored that I was actually able to come up with these things out of my own head, that I would display them as a reminder that my life was worth so much more then the taunting teasing bullies on the playground would have me believe.
And it's not ALWAYS this magical. 3-4 out of 5 times that I actually sit down to build, nothing comes out. I spend a long time thinking and building and trying new things, and they often don't work out. I can spend 3 hours experimenting and end up with nothing. It's about 1/5th of the time that something CLICKS, and the universe GIFTS me these creations.
On a good day, I can build 3-4 amazing things that totally blow my mind, and blow the last ones I did out of the water!
So, that leads me to the lesson. Often times, by reveling in these past accomplishments for too long, I would stifle FUTURE potential. I would leave these works on my shelf and they would collect dust. (Lego attracts more dust then any other material in the world. SCIENCE FACT!) Most of the time some of my BEST pieces (elements, bricks, blocks, what have you) would get "tied up" in these beautiful master works. Well... it came to me one day in a flash. If I want to move forward unencumbered and free my mind and my resources up enough for the universe to give me my next gift... I need to completely release my attachment to the past accomplishment!
I LITERALLY needed to DESTROY my past peak, in order to even have a CHANCE at climbing towards the next highest one.
So I eventually trained myself OUT of being SAD when I broke my old creations, and started REVELING in it! I would smash huge spaceships into the mother pile with great dramatic effect! Often holding them up above my head in one last appreciation for their divinity, before violently throwing them at the floor, and releasing their potential back into the mother pile.
And, like I said before, only 1 in 5 "build sessions" results in one of these master works! So the times I destroyed the old were almost NEVER the same times as I build the new.
But that was ok!
Which brings me to my next lesson:
Patience, and embracing of failures.
So what of these times when I sit and build and build and build and nothing comes of it? Are these wastes of time? Well, in a younger, more hyper-critical faze of my life I thought so. I used to get upset about it. But I'm realizing now that these "in between" times are JUST as important as the dramatic "Ah HA!!" times. My faith, and my willingness to sit through the days when I build and build and get no where, are the REASON I receive the gifts! If I didn't sit through all of these so called "failures" then my successful builds would NEVER happen. You MUST be willing to put enough FAIL times in to get to the WIN!
And I learned it from Lego?!
Lesson # 3: There's no light like Sunlight
Somewhere in my childhood, a friend and I were playing with my Lego, and Mom, like most well intending Mothers, told us we needed to go play outside...
WELL. This started a chain reaction that led to my worship of Sunlight. AND to the discovery of a dramatically efficient cleanup method. In a flash of brilliance, my friend and I decided we could just bring a sleeping bag outside, open it up, and pour the Lego out on to it.
WELL. Have you ever seen Lego in direct sunlight?! It's MARVELOUS! The colours, the shapes, the textures, all come to LIFE in the sun. The translucent elements are suddenly BRILLIANT, and every colour is richer. There's NOTHING like playing Lego outside. It's really one of the better ways to spend a sunny afternoon.
Now I hunt for sunlight in my daily life. I choose places to live that have South or West facing windows. I sit by windows at restaurants and cafe's. I chase the sunsets on my bike. Sunlight wins over ANY artificial light.
If it can make Lego look so good, it MUST be the best way to look at all life.
Lesson #4: Work Smart, Not Hard
So the Lego was now on a blanket outside, and when it's time to come in, we simply pick up the blanket, and pour the Lego back into the box! GENIUS! I now NEVER play with my Lego without putting it on a blanket. It's just the way to go.
And finally, the last lesson:
The Destination doesn't matter, it's the journey, and the company you keep that lasts.
My Aunt Lynda is my favorite Aunt. I don't mean that in a way that should be insulting to any other Aunts. She just put in more time, and was the closest to my Age.
One day, when I was very young, she was at our house for dinner. She was helping Mom and Dad with cleanup after eating, and I kept tugging at her pant leg and asking her to play Lego with me. My parents tried to save her by saying "Grown ups don't want to play Lego". The look on my face must have gotten to her because she immediately said "No! I'll play with you, right after I finish dishes".
I might have been 5 at the time. 6 tops. Well, she, a grown Woman, and my God Mother, came into my bedroom, and sat on my floor, and played Lego with me. She didn't build ANYTHING. I can remember her sticking one of my Mini-Figs (Official name for Lego Men) on a 6 x 4 black flat panel, and then sticking a couple lights on it. (how do I remember this?!)
Anyway... the point is, she built NOTHING. But she did it. And it meant and still means, the WORLD to me. This lesson was big too. It didn't fucking matter that she couldn't come up with a finished piece. Heck, I don't have the slightest clue what I built that time. Another Space Ship I suppose. But what lasted, was the fact that SHE PLAYED LEGO WITH ME. It wasn't the destination that had an effect on me. It was the journey. The time spent with this WONDERFUL adult. This person, who lowered herself to the level of a child for a half-hour, changed that child forever with her kindness and caring.
The fact that she built nothing in particular made the lesson ring even truer to me. She did it JUST to spend time with me, and to let me know that my aspirations and creativity had value BEYOND a simple childish pass time.
All in all, Lego has been an inspiring tool that I've employed with great joy. I feel further blessed that I've been able to apply the lessons it has taught me in my real life. All of these principles of Lego philosophy can be applied to real world situations. Certainly not clinging to passed accomplishments with too much vigor, and forgiving myself for days I spend going through the motions of being creative, without much concrete results has made me much more forgiving of the sometimes painfully un-productive "process" of being a creative professional.
If you haven't played with your Lego in a while, I urge you to do so. But please, let go of the idea that you NEED to end up with something finished in the end. Allow yourself the freedom to construct whatever you wish, and don't worry about any judgments or standards of quality. Sure, building that amazing creation is pretty rewarding... but in the end, the time you spend chasing it is far more valuable then the artifact you may or may not create.