Monday, August 13, 2018

Proving Yet Again That Success Is Mostly Meaningless

They had a plan, these two girls, to build a castle just for themselves.

In quiet conversation, alternating between heads together and shoulder-to-shoulder, they worked out their details, laying out a foundation that they measured not once, but twice, then three times, like all good builders do; measuring it with their bodies, standing in there together to make sure they both had room to do the royal things they would be doing.

Our collection of cardboard blocks is really an amalgamation of three different sets, each made on slightly different scales. In other words, if all four walls are going to be of an equal height, you must identify, then build with only the blocks that go together. The girls did not know this when they started, but they did by the time they were finished, negotiating trades with other builders to get enough "big reds" for their purposes.

They were quite proud when they thought to add a door to their castle, stopping in their play to say, "Look at our door, Teacher Tom," proud of their foresight.

All along, this was going to be a castle with a roof, but when they got to that point, they found the "big reds" inadequate for their purposes. "We need longies."

There are only eight of the longest blocks and they are typically quite popular among our builders. Patiently then, the girls collected, talked, waited, and pounced. The first four blocks fit nicely between the opposite walls, but when it came to roofing the area above the door, they were momentarily stumped as there was no place to rest the ends of the remaining four "longies" if they were to be placed parallel to the others.

"Maybe this part doesn't need a roof."

"We could pretend there's a roof."

"We could make the roof out of paper."

Then there was an explosive "I know!" the cry of Eureka! that every teacher lives to hear.

And now they were done. "Teacher Tom, look at the castle we made."

It had been a focused 30 minutes of teamwork, of calculation, of opportunism, of cooperation, of manipulation, of hard logic, and creativity. They had planned together and corrected their plans. They had done all the things that humans do together and here before them was their castle.

It was only then, however, that they discovered it wasn't quite large enough for two, at least not with walls so easily knocked over. They tried, of course, to carefully, carefully, carefully fit their two bodies inside this place they had measured while standing, and at one point did, while remaining very still, both more or less fit inside.

Just as carefully they crawled back out and stood looking, both proud and disappointed, at their too-small castle. 

"Let's do something else."


And together they kicked it down, proving yet again that success is mostly meaningless: it is the process, the failures, the challenges, the teamwork, and the effort, that give meaning to what humans do.

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