Lego Movie – lessons on following instructions

I love Lego and am an unashamed adult who still plays with it. The movie is ‘awesome’ and I especially enjoyed the underlying messages I picked up about life and what things we pay attention to when it comes to deciding how we build structures and meaning into it. I’d like to share some of the learning and meaning I took from watching The Lego Movie and hope it makes sense to those who haven’t seen it.

Watching the world of Bricksburg through the eyes of Emmet, it wasn’t hard to recognise the idea that we all follow rules and instructions whether we are aware of them or not. Some of these seem necessary for the sake of preventing chaos but others perhaps encourage limited explorations of creativity and even shut down free thought.

We might not have instruction manuals lying around for everything from breathing to how to make friends, but I’d suggest there could be some strong ideas out there about how you should proceed in life to make it work well. Emmet was happy following the instructions and that is also true — people like structure, routine, certainty — to know how it will look at the end is comforting. I suppose I also notice a down side to this when something doesn’t quite fit or a bit of life falls off — there is worry and anxiety that it doesn’t ‘look right’. 

The Master Builders (MB) however could create anything from anything and didn’t need instruction manuals for life. They resisted fiercely the notion of rules and valued original thought. Now this idea really inspired me to think of my own capacity for being a MB and what I would consider places to ‘throw out the rule/instruction manual’. Building this way enabled the MB to be flexible and responsive to challenges, but they still had limits: Batman would only work in black or very dark grey — and Benny wanted everything to be a spaceship — so both had self-imposed limits. Working with others needed compromise and a willingness to accept different approaches, which was sometimes a bit messy, but they found ways to incorporate and value what individuals had to bring.

Whether some rules or instructions for life are up for rewriting, or simply ignoring, might be a frightening concept. But it does not have to mean nothing would ever take shape, which is often the argument against change. Taking our time to look at the pieces and structures for their usefulness and limiting effects can be done with sensitivity and care. We don’t need to take a wrecking ball to everything at the same time.

Yes ‘everything is awesome’ except when it’s not, but then that’s ok because life is like a box of lego – full of fiddly tiny bits that don’t always seem to have a purpose or fit, where you can follow the instructions step by step or just build spaceships!

My final instructions are, “See The Lego Movie!

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