Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A Tower To The Ceiling

Yesterday, some three-year-olds spent the morning trying to build towers "to the ceiling," stacking blocks higher than their heads, then dragging boxes over to stand on so they could make their towers even taller. They worked solo and as teams, stacking ever more carefully, ever more precisely, as their constructions grew simultaneously upward and wobbly. They moved their bodies cautiously, knowing that even the slightest lurch or inattentive moment could bring the whole thing down. None of them talked about this inevitability, however, but rather stuck to reciting their goal: to reach the ceiling.

It's not exactly optimism, because there is no other possible conclusion than that the towers will topple, and they all know it. None of them expected to reach the ceiling, yet on they built, concentrating, holding their breaths, cautioning one another in softened voices. Hoping, perhaps, that this time they would do it, but not expecting it.

Building a tower to the sky is right up there with digging a hole to China when it comes to childhood aspirations. I recall attempting both. I likewise recall not being disappointed when I failed, because even as a preschooler I knew it to be a hyperbolic way of setting an impossible challenge, one that was about going as far as you can before the whole thing comes tumbling down. Just a few months ago, this would have been impossible in our busy classroom as there would invariably be a classmate unable to resist hurling his body into it, hurrying the inevitable. Back then there were lots of tears of disappointment as we built, but yesterday there were none. The children have learned to honor one another's projects just has they've learned the joy of challenging the fates.

When the buildings fell with a startling crash, every child smiled, some even laughed. None of them hung their heads. None showed disappointment. Few pushed their towers over on purpose, as they instead let gravity have its unavoidable victory, a basic lesson in physics they have all come to understand through their play. Most then took a moment to kick through the fallen blocks, taking a moment to release the tension that had been building as their towers grew, before starting again, declaring once more, "I'm going to build a tower to the ceiling."

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