Thursday, April 12, 2012

Legos and self-righteous judgmentalism

My son loves Legos. Like, loves them in an unhealthy way. He has so many that for Christmas, my wife and I built him a “Legolab”—we connected together four clear Rubbermaid file-cabinets, put a tabletop across the top of it, and glued down Lego baseplates across the top. Each drawer can now have different colored legos in it so that he doesn’t lose them. And the top of his desk he can use for building Legos on top of the baseplate.

He’ll play at that thing all day: he just loves it.

For Christmas, my mother and father got him Queen Anne’s Revenge—the huge, expensive Pirates of the Caribbean ship. So I decided that for a set that big and with that many pieces, we would glue it together as we built it: that way it wouldn’t accidentally get broken. He has plenty of other Legos to build things with, but once broken we would never be able to re-make Queen Anne’s Revenge.

So I went online and Googled, “How to glue Lego blocks together.” This took me to’s message board, where a woman asked a very similar question—for large set pieces, she wanted to glue them together so that they would last longer and he could use his other Legos for creative building.

Apparently, this was a big mistake.

The posters responded with a rash of judgmentalism that is unbelievable when one remembers that we are talking about a child’s toy. I jotted down some of their comments (all misspellings and bad capitalization are theirs, not mine):

“ *NEVER* glue any LEGO brick or creation!!!...consider the fixing time as part of the LEGO imagination experience.”


“I had legos from the time I was 5 up until I was 18 or so and never glued them….to me gluing a set would take away all the creativity out of it and you mise as well buy something premade.”

“DON’T GLUE! It turns something fun into a fixed sculpture…if there was a flaw in met set I was working that was flimsy or didn’t look right I would work (build) until I had a solution. IT WAS FUN!!!”

“Never ever glue sets. It takes away the purpose of LEGO….if you buy a LEGO set to glue it why buy LEGO.”

“It will look tacky.”

“If you glue a car it becomes a normal car (not your own car from your own imagining) etc.”

Of the answers, only about one in five actually tried to help answer the question for the asker. The others all looked down on her and were outraged—OUTRAGED!—that she would dare to glue Legos together.

My first reaction was a bemused, “Relax, people. It’s a TOY. It’s supposed to be fun.”

But upon further reflection, I see a lesson of judgmentalism here that relates to our daily lives.

The Lego community on this board has surrounded themselves with like-minded people, and they have taken a toy and turned it into a symbol for them. Lego is no longer just a cool toy for this group; it is a nostalgic symbol of free play, creativity, and imagination. They elevate Lego beyond its natural realms, and turn it into an ideal, an icon for the idea of Imagination. They make this icon the center of their passion.

When confronted with someone who does not share this particular ideal—someone for whom, Legos are a toy and it is frustrating to buy your kid a $90 toy that he then breaks and is unable to rebuild it—they become quite judgmental. Because to them, this woman was not talking about how to build a Lego set piece for her kid: she was attacking imagination itself! She was stifling creativity!! She was anti-free play!!! The horror.

(Aside: is it just me, or is that Lego argument ridiculous anyway? Even if you glued EVERY Lego set your kid got, they still got to build them, and they still get to play with them imaginatively. What difference does it make if it is glued together or not? Now for my son, who—like me—loves the building side more than the playing side, it makes sense to leave the Legos un-glued. The Queen Anne’s Revenge and the Atlantis city set are actually our only glued sets. But for another kid, that might not be the case. Maybe he loves the Lego video games and wants his cars to be Lego cars. But if he doesn’t care about building them, what’s so wrong with gluing them so he can run it like a racecar and bang it into walls?)

We do the same thing in our spiritual lives, of course. We surround ourselves with groups of like-minded believers, and we elevate things which are not “essentials” and treat them like essentials. And heaven help those who happen to express disagreement.

As you go through your day, ask yourself—how are you judging others? In what ways do you look down on them? Do you look down on them because they chose a different church than you? Or use a different version of the Bible? Or send their kids to public/private/charter/home school? Or eat/don’t eat meat? Or dress differently? What is the thing that they do which you find yourself saying, “I just don’t understand how they can do such-and-such?”

And when you think of that thing, remember what Jesus said: how you judge others is how you will be judged; the way you measure others will be used to measure you; you will be forgiven to the extent that you are forgiving to others.

So just tell the kid’s mom how to glue the Legos together. Get down of your high (Lego) horse. :)

1 comment:

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