“Actually it’s a Highly Sophisticated Interlocking Brick System”

The unsettledness in the Daodejing (also spelled Tao Te Ching3) starts not from the first chapter, nor from the first page, nor even from the first line. Scholars can’t even agree on the title. In one English translation it’s Te-Tao Ching, and in fact the traditional title is simply the Laozi (also spelled Lao Tzu).4 That’s supposedly the name of its author, but one of the few things scholars can agree on is that no one named Laozi ever existed.

So in a sense our springboard is a book without a title or an author. Laozi himself is built up out of history’s LEGO, and so is the Daodejing. In Laozi’s case, the bricks and plates are a bunch of stories, remarks, and references in other works, all pointing at whoever it was that wrote the passages we now call the Daodejing. Similarly, there isn’t an “official” or “original” Daodejing, but rather a series of constructions made by various contributors. What we have today is a received text that can be traced back to a number of different documents—its bricks and plates, so to speak—and over the years, different scholars have stuck them together in different arrangements.

Little wonder, perhaps, that we can apply this composite philosophical tradition to the composite brick system that is LEGO.

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