“Det Bedste Er Ikke For Godt,” which means “Only the best is good enough” in Danish, is the motto of LEGO. As might be expected for a family-owned and privately held Danish company, the company is known for being very perfectionistic in its tendencies, and even with its occasional product failures, it has managed to inveigle itself into the hearts and wallets of many millions of people worldwide through its humble blocks. Although I have not had much cause to think about legos for many years (the LEGO movie was a bit silly for my tastes), reading a book about the history of the company  inspired me to write at some length about my own particular history with the humble bricks, and how they fired my own creativity as a child. A book review is not exactly the place where it is most appropriate to discuss one’s own personal history about toys at length and ramble on like a fanboy. I tend to like to keep my book reviews much more disciplined than that. Personal essays like this one, on the other hand, are a different matter altogether.
I first became familiar with lego toys thanks to my father. I have already commented before about how my father sought to encourage my love of military history through books and battlefields , but he also encouraged my constructive interests as well as my more gloomy ones. And so, over the course of the years between about 9 and 14, I ended up with thousands and thousands of pieces of lego bricks from a variety of sets, mostly in three different themes, that were (and are) a reflection on different aspects of my own interests and personality. There was LEGO city, with its contemporary architecture, its pleasure boats (probably playing yacht rock), its gas stations and airports and streets and infrastructure. There was LEGO pirates, with the hint of danger and the thrill of exploration, and piracy has long been an interest of mine. The third, of course, was LEGO castle, with its knights and foresters. I have, of course always been attracted to the romance (if not the grubbiness) of the Medieval world. Between these three themes, my younger brother and I spent many hundreds of hours constructing a wide variety of sets and our own buildings, places, boat fights, and the like. Of course, many times the wreckage of boat fights would fill the bathtub, and the imprints of lego bricks made their way onto my feet.
In at least two fundamental ways, those lego toys have been fundamental influences on me in ways that I have not often reflected upon. A few years ago, I wrote a play based on a childhood recurring dream that had involved the castle legos, where a young man was sold into slavery by his father to pay for debts and who then fell in love with a princess that ended up spurning him. I suppose that is the sort of dream I would have had as a child. Still, LEGO is one of the few fandoms that has ever inspired me to extended writing, and “The Virgin Prince” remains one of my more interesting works, even if it is a provocative work that certainly has not pleased everyone. In fact, a couple of years after I wrote the book, I received a letter from an unhappy muse, who I had not spoken with for about a decade before then, who was upset at how she had been portrayed. I suppose that is one element that has remained constant in my writing, and that is that few people want to inspire my writing. Some things never change.
In an odd way, playing with LEGO toys as a child also helped with my interest in engineering and creativity. For one, the building of blocks certainly provided some sort of idea in my mind that creation and building were enjoyable activities, especially given the fact that I liked the step-by-step nature of the toys and the way that simple blocks could make beautiful sets and also be flexible and usable in other areas. That ability for modularity helped inspire my own approach to systems and the sharing of knowledge and insights from different fields as part of one larger one. Even my graduate education in engineering management related in some ways to those blocks I enjoyed, in that they provided a lesson on Total Quality Management. In a strange way, my life and habits have long been influenced by the lessons learned from little blocks. I suppose that is worth some appreciation, and the hope that others will be likewise inspired.
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