Monday, August 20, 2012

Happy Birthday Lego!

This year marks the 80th Anniversary of Lego, one of the most ingenious toys ever invented. I spent hours upon hours building when I was growing up: castles, ships, castles, submarines, cities, western towns, and more castles (I built a lot of castles). In honor of their anniversary, Lego has created a video telling the company’s story.

What makes Lego so genius, as the video mentions, is that it is an entire system. Every set adds to the total collection, and is therefore more than an individual set. There are really no limits to the possibilities—the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I remember lying awake at night constructing structures or solving engineering problems with Legos. I can still visualize how the pieces go together and occasionally find myself building models in my head. Even now, my Google Reader has a “Lego” category, with blogs that upload pictures of new creations. And yes, I even lament how the sets aren’t nearly as good as they used to be, even if there are so many more types of pieces. (What happened to “castle” and “pirate”?) Although I’m not such a purist that I stay away from BrickArms and BrickForge.

In fact, I partly credit Lego for my success in law school. Building with Lego required me to solve difficult problems. The challenge was how to construct the visualized finished model with the given number of pieces, which often involved using pieces in unorthodox ways. (Shout out to my younger brother here: he built a three-story pirate ship with a hull that was partly sideways and partly upside down.)

Law is the same way, except that instead of little plastic bricks, it uses concepts and words. It still builds one upon the other, and the higher you get the more you discover if your foundation was sound. When it’s not, you have to take it apart and start over just to fix a little problem way down at the bottom. When I mentally visualize arguments, they sometimes even have a faint resemblance to Lego bricks.

Many law students get to law school and need to learn this new way of thinking. Thanks in part to Lego, it was not a difficult transition for me.

So Happy Birthday Lego! And may you have many more.
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