LEGO®, Impermanence, and Buddhism

David Kahn

Growing up, I found myself in a relentless battle between appreciating my LEGO® masterpieces and adding a coat of superglue to preserve them for the ages. If this sounds unusual, my eight-year-old self would tell you that what is really unusual is creating a work of art only to destroy it at cleanup time. In the end, I conceded to take it apart, but this was always done begrudgingly and not without my mom first taking a picture for posterity.

Thirty years later, I watch in amazement as my kids spend hours building a LEGO tower only to knock it down in a fit of laughter. No qualms. No pouting. No pictures to reminisce for all of history. They enjoy the construction and the destruction.

The battle between my childhood disposition to preserve and my kids’ disposition to destroy is typical. The LEGO Movie explores this idea when Finn is reprimanded for “ruining” his father’s elaborate LEGO structure. Once Finn’s father realizes that the villain in his son’s scenario is based on him and his use of Kragle (Krazy Glue), the lesson of the movie (and of LEGO) emerges—nothing is static, life is in a state of perpetual change.

Change is commonly resisted. When leadership Professor John Kotter researched this idea in his book Leading Change, he found that 70 percent of all workplace change programs fail.1 Likewise, when studying dietary changes, food psychologist Traci Mann discovered that 66 percent of people claiming to desire to lose weight regained more weight post-diet than they started with, and when studying

LEGO® and Philosophy: Constructing Reality Brick By Brick, First Edition. Edited by Roy T. Cook and Sondra Bacharach.

© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2017 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

changes resulting from New Year’s resolutions, psychologist Richard Wiseman observed an 88 percent failure rate.2

Accepting change can be difficult, but not changing can be fatal. A company’s long-term survival is based on its ability to evolve in an ever-changing industrial landscape. Someone with unhealthy eating habits must be able to alter their diet to match their lifestyle. And resolutions are an indicator that you are not satisfied with some aspect of your life and feel the need to make a change.

Despite our best efforts, every aspect of life is in a state of flux. To adapt is to survive. That is why we must learn to embrace the Buddhist philosophy of impermanence.

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