He deals the cards as a meditation
And those he plays never suspect

-Sting “Shape of My Heart”

I bought a Lego advent calendar each of the past half dozen years. It is a bit of joy every day that I get to open up that little door and put together a Lego Star Wars toy. A few friends questioned that extravagance for a few seconds of lightness. It is, however, less per day than a cup of coffee.

The flip side, though, is that I don’t know what to do with all of this Lego later. Last year’s 25 pieces and a few micro-packs filled a small shelf. Another new 25 small toys will bring that to overflowing.

But why do I have to keep them at all? If I am unlikely to build anything from the fragments of a clone trooper transport, why doesn’t it just go into the recycling bin? Because we as accumulators have trained ourselves to put value on one $2 thing, a bit of Lego, and not on another, a cup of coffee.

If I keep the little Lego toy I’m geeky, or a collector, or just eccentric. If I keep the coffee cups, I am barking mad.


Lego was another of the Things that led me to question all the Things in my life. I had purchased a used Lego kit from eBay and had great fun putting it together. Unlike the new kits, this was all the pieces in a giant pile (new kits come packed in stages so you spend less time hunting for a specific piece).

As I slowly put together the set over several days, I became aware of how calming and engaging this hunting was. Essentially a three-dimensional puzzle (with instructions).


I find this assembly quite meditative. Particularly if there are a lot of pieces to sift through. I know the next step and have a picture in my head of the next piece or three I will need. A red peg, and a clear plate, and a 4×6.

While those are in my mind, the rest of the noise, be necessity, disappears. My full attention is directed and my thoughts are clear.


I put the completed set on display in my home office and barely noticed it for the next week. This was how I came to understand how little value the sets added to my life once they were assembled.

Like any puzzle, the fun and value is in the solving, not in the result you step away from. Much like the value of a book is in the story rather than what sits on your shelf.

One is an experience, the other is a Thing.


I took that set apart and then proceeded to take every Lego kit I had apart. I put each in its own bag and packed them away for the year. Lego archives every instruction manual they’ve ever made on their website, so it was simple step to drop a note in each bag so I can match it to a pdf later.

In a year or so, I will put together the kits and again enjoy the quiet meditation of assembly. Or perhaps trade some kits with like-minded friends.