Legos and the Rise of the Boxed Imagination

Do you remember having Legos as a kid? I certainly do- I had a big plastic yellow suitcase full of random brightly colored bits of plastic. I remember the anticipation I would feel every time I opened that thing- what would I create today? For me, it was often houses- I took pride in fitting the doors and windows properly into the randomly colored walls.

LegosWEBThe best part of my Lego experience was not having boundaries (except, of course, for the limitation of quantity and shape of pieces). I could make a moon rover. I could make an apple pie. I could make a disco ball made of cheese. My imagination brought my creations to life.

After relaying my love for Legos, I was gifted some lovely sets for my 30th birthday. These sets are lovely collections of pieces- starter kits that allow you to make a bunch of small things (flowers, a crocodile, a train, and more) by following the instructions in the included booklet.

Which, of course, I did. Over and over again.

Now, every time I open the big, yellow, plastic Lego shaped container that houses my Lego pieces, I go in with the anticipation that I felt as a child…

I can make anything!

Once I’m in, however, I’m overwhelmed by the choices. Where do I begin? What should I make? Do I really have all the proper parts to fit together into that ambitious a project? How long will this take? I should make dinner soon. Did I feed the cat? …and so on.

And then I find myself reaching reaching for that damned booklet and getting my quick fix in a perfect creation that I didn’t put any thought into.

Where did my adventurous creativity go? Why do I waste so much time thinking about mindless drivel and less time doing satisfying things?

As adults in this crazy, fast-paced, instantaneous world we live in, we are working longer hours, doing more tasks at all times, and inundated with information. We are expected to know everything, be everything, and do everything. In majority, ours is a world of templates and box kits where speed and quantity are rewarded over ingenuity and quality. Along my journey into task lists and time tracking, I’ve lost my ability to let go and just… imagine.

Just… imagine.

Lately, I feel as though my brain functions as it should much, much later in my life cycle. I’m on auto-pilot, trying to make sure to be able to check off all the tasks before they are due. I’m addled by multiplying mundanity. It’s been an effort to turn the corner toward freeing my imagination. It’s an effort I’m very willing to make.

The imagination is a muscle needs exercise. Take the time to simply sit with a blank piece of paper and a pencil, zone out, and give in to whatever ends up on the paper. It doesn’t have to be a win every time.

We are not robots. We are not computers. We can’t always be measured in data and statistics and put into neat little categories. That’s part of the power of being a human being. Break free of the boxed sets and instruction booklets. It’s the only way to truly set yourself apart from the rest. Allow yourself the time to let your mind wander and process all of the information it is constantly gathering. Instead of chasing deadlines, change the game. We’ll never know what may be stirring in there just waiting to come out until you do.

About Stevie Caldarola

Stevie Caldarola is a freelance graphic designer, writer & editor, photographer, multimedia artist and lighting designer.

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  1. Brandon Jacobs
    September 5, 2016 at 12:17 am

    I found this piece poignant, but I must admit it has led me down a path that is almost entirely self-referential. In that regard, please forgive my selfish reverie.

    It has been years since I have finished a painting. In one regard, I am quite proud of having chosen a new field and, having dedicated myself to it so thoroughly, achieved modestly within that field.

    However, I found myself longing for the hours upon hours for which I used to have time to experiment in the medium and make mistakes; sometime beautiful, sometimes highly mundane: but always fulfilling in the deepest sense to me personally.

    Now I find myself forcing my painting. It is no longer an explorative act of discovery within myself and the world, but rather a quite dogged lesson in humility and accepting my own limitations.

    I want to embrace the moment and… Just. Create. But whereas that used to only cost me a few moments of connection to a low-paying job, it could now cost me greatly in my career. Ambition can be a motherfucker.

    I have developed the ability to find joy and beauty in so many small things.. It is a real struggle to forsake the long, lonely nights in which I burn with the creative force in order to save myself for creating a community committed to growth at work on a daily basis.

    What I now create is an extension of a community that stretches well beyond the self-serving impulses I used to respect above all. I can express myself through creating connections amongst all the souls with which I come in contact. Those long lonely nights of finding the right line or correct shade have been replaced by long lonely nights of discovering the best way to serve others and serve my chosen community.

    I have the utmost respect for those who strive in their own individual way to find beauty without blueprints or instructions. I have found a beauty in assembling a community from partially assembled parts. The art of leadership that I find myself surprisingly most suited to is in the choosing of which parts to attach to the larger scheme and which parts to assemble from disparate and mismatching colored pieces.

    All of my blathering aside, thank you for this piece. It has clearly given me much to reflect upon.

  2. September 5, 2016 at 7:39 am

    Thanks for sharing, Brandon! I think this post is very much meant to encourage self-examination, so I really appreciate you opening up and sharing your thoughts, especially when they are so personal.

    Yes, yes, yes! to everything you bring up here. I have experienced what I think is a very similar experience to you with the shifting of my creative tide into connections. Congratulations on finding your flow, as that is often a long and winding journey for a lot of folks (myself included) with, sometimes, no end.

    I have four responses that I want to share because I am now thinking that, in the original post above, I was not quite clear enough in my intentions (and maybe that’s a good thing?)

    1. I think this piece is more addressed to those feeling lost and following what I call the “zombie path” of disengagement. You wake up, you go to work, you do your work, you come home, you do the things you think you need to do in order to be a functioning human being, you go to sleep. Rinse. Repeat. I was on that path for a bit of a time now, with some exceptions here and there, and I needed to write this down to remind myself to break the cycle, if only every once in awhile. In truth, this piece really was created very selfishly, but in afterthought, possibly could be helpful to others experiencing similar disengagement.

    2. This piece isn’t necessarily about creating something. This piece, to me, is more about exploration. Sitting down with a blank paper and a pencil doesn’t necessarily have to end up in an all night painting bender (although it could, and that’s an awesome journey to take if it speaks to your soul). You could end up with words, lines, doodles, or even a fully colored in piece of paper. Or, it could still be blank when you’re done. The point is more to take a moment, take a breath, and release your focus to softly explore what’s inside, what feeds you, whatever pops up, whatever happens. It’s about letting go, too. I often find myself with the best intentions to do something like this but all the everyday minutae and whatever is weighing on me often clouds back in and I don’t let myself flow. For awhile, I couldn’t find that all-night-painting-bender-zen anymore, and it scared me. I never want to lose that, and so I encourage myself (and, ultimately, anyone who is interested by it) to practice that muscle. Truthfully, this piece is not about a career choice, or a life path, it’s about using some of your spare time to stay connected with yourself and your inner child and to let go and see what comes out of it. It may just be for fun, or it may eventually lead you somewhere new and exciting, but the point is for there to be no pressure about it but to simply be in the moment.

    3. I have a deep love of instructions and assembling from schematics. This post is not meant to discourage or disparage that at all – it definitely is an integral part of our society and another fascinating way of using skills and smarts.

    4. YES! (got excited 🙂 ) Community. I’m such a strong, strong believer in community. Especially when it comes to creating and exploring. Why can’t one have both the community experience AND the self-exploration? I firmly believe that the occasional self-exploration leads to a stronger connection to the self, which allows a more strong connection in the community. It sounds as if you have found a way of creativity in a community, and that is awesome! I highly encourage that as well. For myself, I’m aiming to do both – the self-exploration and the community-driven exploration.

    All in all, I’m certainly glad that this piece connected with you and you bravely shared your thoughts and experiences with this topic.

    Thanks again for reading!

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