The Seemingly Insignificant Lego


Our Lego adventure began with us ripping the cellophane away and cracking open the little packages of pieces inside. The excitement to complete the project led us to ignore the systematic instructions the company provided. “We don’t need no stinking instructions!” I said to the enjoyment of my son. “A trained chimpanzee could figure this thing out. Right? Give me some!” we said slapping skin.

After we ripped the cellophane away then cracked open the little packages of pieces inside, we snapped the big blocks together. For those of us who aren’t great at building things, putting five to six big blocks together provides a sense of satisfaction. “It looks just like it does on the cover,” we say. Yet, whenever Lego novices refuse to follow systematic instructions, they eventually encounter a problem. We encountered our problem about a fourth of the way through the project. One of our large constructs didn’t snap into another one quite right. It made no sense. It made so little sense that we had to drop the ego and consult the instructions. The instructions informed us that we would have to tear all of our hard work apart to insert a crucial tiny, seemingly insignificant, yellow, transparent Lego. In our frustration, we wondered why the Lego designer didn’t just include an extra little extension on the larger piece to render the little, yellow Lego unnecessary. 

After we complete the reassembly, and our frustration subsides, those of us with a mind’s eye open to philosophical nuggets might see philosophy where it doesn’t exist. This is when the epiphany, the Eureka, or the “Holy Crud!” moment strikes. “Holy Crud! There might be a philosophical component behind the Lego designer making the tiny, yellow piece so mandatory for completion.” Movies might depict this as the lightning strikes moment, or the cartoonish lightbulb above the head that leads the character to look at the camera and say something to viewers at home to break down the fourth wall. 

In most real-world constructs, little parts are as important as the big ones, and sometimes they’re more important. The spark plug might be one of the smallest parts on a car, for example, but if it’s not firing properly in a spark ignition system, proper combustion is not possible, and our car won’t run properly. Do Lego designers have an unspoken philosophy that they wanted to share with their customer base that some of the times, the seemingly insignificant is more relevant and more important, or as Heraclitus said, “The unapparent connection is more powerful than the apparent one.”  

“Life is filled with trivial examples,” Dennis Prager once wrote. “Most of life is not major moments.”

When developing a personal philosophy, most of us prefer to go it alone. We don’t want to listen to our parents, various other authority figures in our lives, or the proverbial instruction manuals of the way to live. “We don’t need no stinking instruction manuals.” We enjoy putting large concepts and constructs together to figure matters out, and we attempt to design our personal philosophy without the need for tiny, seemingly insignificant, yellow, transparent ideas. At some point, we realize we’ve made mistakes, but we won’t know how to fix them until we consult instruction manuals that detail the need to incorporate the transparent, yellow ideas to unlock larger, more confusing and debilitating complexities that impede us. After we reconstruct our philosophy, when we’re three-quarters finished in life, we realize that that the crucial, unapparent connections we failed to make were so obvious that they were staring us in the face all along.

The philosophy of the tiny, seemingly insignificant, yellow, transparent Lego suggests that while big philosophical ideas and profound psychological thoughts often lead to big accolades, the philosophy of the obvious suggests that none of these advancements would be possible without the “Well, Duh!” or “I can’t believe you didn’t know that!” ideas that litter philosophy.

Once we learn philosophically obvious tenets and incorporate them into our life, we consider them so obvious that we convince ourselves that we knew them all along, or we can’t remember ever thinking otherwise. Yet, we lived a chunk of our lives without knowing anything about the tiny bricks in our foundation, and our mind somehow adjusted to those deficiencies.

How often do we subconsciously adjust to limitations or deficiencies? How many of us didn’t know we were colorblind, until our eighth grade science teacher asked us to complete her colorblind test. Our eighth grade teacher gave us images and asked us to whisper to her what colors existed in the photo. Some of us failed it! We learned that we were incapable of distinguishing the color red for example, and we adjusted to that new reality going forward. We all talked about it later and Pat Murray said he failed the red portion of the test. I was stunned. He was unmoved by it. He thought I was teasing him, rubbing it in, or in some way trying to make him feel bad about it, as I would if he failed a math test. I wasn’t. My comments alluded to the idea that if I just learned, as Pat had, that I had been unable to distinguish red for fourteen years, it would rock my world. How often did he adjust to his inability to distinguish red for fourteen years without knowing that he adjusted? What kind of adaptations did he make, in his daily life, to compensate for something about himself that he didn’t even know. How long do some suffer through school before discovering that they are dyslexic? As one who was fortunate to have never suffered such deficiencies, I think it might be earth shattering to learn such things after suffering in the dark for so long.  

The mind-blowing reactions I’ve heard from people like Pat is that they don’t have much of a reaction. They treat it like a person who can’t say cinnamon or roll their tongues. “It made sense that the reason I was having trouble reading … or the reason I couldn’t match my clothes well … was because of a deficiency.” Most such sufferers don’t think about all the struggles they’ve endured, and how learning the diagnosis would’ve made their lives easier if they learned it earlier. Most don’t consider the information earth shattering, they just move onto the next phase of life that involves them approaching such matters with the diagnosis in mind. How many adjustments did we make prior to discovering the philosophical equivalent of the tiny, seemingly insignificant, yellow, transparent block? How are we going to use that information going forward? We just adjust, adapt, and move on. “Nothing to see here folks, just a fella doing what he does.”

Regardless how we arrive at this place, or exit it, we gradually move to the philosophy of the obvious. It can take a while to uncover what we’re trying to write about in an article, on a website, but some of us uncovered our whole modus operandi (M.O.), or our raison de’etre (our purpose) while trying to do something as relatively insignificant as cobbling a bunch of Legos together. This otherwise trivial experience in my life proved an embarrassing, humbling, and illuminating experience that changed the scope of this website.  

The early posts on Rilaly.com began as a warehouse of the weird. We were weird for the sake of being weird, as we sought to shock ourselves out of our comfort zone into new ideas. After a couple posts, we found the immediate properties such pursuits offer aren’t as rewarding as we initially thought they might be. We were weird for the sake of being weird, and we found that we were able to dismiss those ideas as frivolous. “He’s just weird, nothing to see here!” We had greater goals of discovery that we couldn’t see, and we loathed it that we were able to dismiss our ideas so easily. Our secondary goal was to be so unfunny that we might be funny, but our greater goal was to discover the depth of reason as it led to discovery. This led us to the notion that while a shock to the system might move us from our comfort zone temporarily, a provocative thought might modify our thoughts on a matter. To make such a progression, we initially considered it natural to move to large philosophical concepts and profound philosophical constructs, but as the philosophy of the tiny, seemingly insignificant, yellow, transparent Lego taught me, some of the times it requires us to move down scale to the philosophy of the obvious.  

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