“It’s a New Toy Everyday”

Even though we have this fundamental capacity for care and play, Heidegger thinks our careful nature can easily be covered over by a more dominant way of relating with things. Often, we confront things as disposable resources that we can use in any way we wish. Think, for example, about how we use waterways, plastics, natural gas, and other people in ways that maximize our efficiency and productivity. Even our free time and vacations are designed to maximize our productivity once we return to work. One of Heidegger’s main tasks was to explore the problems of this technological worldview and the calcu- lative thinking that results from it. The potential for commodification and systematization during our building with LEGO bricks parallels this potential in our broader relationships with nature, artworks, and people.

Humans are the great calculators (like Lord Business) who strive for productivity. In The LEGO Movie, teamwork and rule-following lead, at least initially, to productivity and happiness. Lord Business proclaims “Let’s take extra care to follow the instructions or you’ll be put to sleep!,” emphasizing the drive to follow the rules that have been created by those in power. Teamwork is so awesome that you will not want to stand out, challenge the rules, or work in isolation from your team members. The resulting contrast between Lord Business and the Master Builders displays the tensions we experience between wanting to be special and knowing that we often accomplish more when we collaborate and work together, even if that means abandoning what is special about us.

LEGO toys and The LEGO Movie highlight these tensions between the mass appeal of products and the desire to feel your creations are special and unique. We play in part because we want to overcome this tension that can never be completely resolved. Even activities that bring us outside dominant and dominating ways of thinking can lead us right back to technological ways of relating.

Although LEGO bricks are made out of non-recyclable plastic, LEGO building holds out the potential for creative and sustainable play. One of the most famous LEGO slogans, “It’s a new toy everyday,” reveals the toy’s demand for constant renewal and creativity. The end of The LEGO Movie shows how the durability of LEGO bricks contributes to a kind of recyclability. We can always make something new out of our LEGO toys. This reminds us that our lives are much like our LEGO creations; they can be taken apart at any moment.

The LEGO Movie expresses concern over whether children’s play has become commodified to such an extent that open and free play is impossible. But the movie itself is a sustained advertisement cleverly crafted—yet not even hidden—to look like an endorsement of individuality. LEGO’s growth into a Disney®-like entity—hotels, amusement parks, playsets that accompany blockbuster films—can leave us yearning for a purer space outside the influence of advertising and Lord Business. It would be nice if there were some possible world without Lord Business and where there was no Good Cop/Bad Cop. However, this place does not exist. Our world and LEGO worlds are filled with dangers and the ever-present threat of destruction. One of the main ways we can guard against these dangers is by becoming mindful, aware, and attuned to our everyday worlds. In this way, we become philosophical LEGO builders. Part of the essence of LEGO work is that we must return to our building each day. Even if we Kragle our creations, new creations will require even more unglued bricks.

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