A lifetime of Lego therapy

It is predicted (at xkcd.com) that by 2019 there may be more Lego people than humans in existence...
It is predicted (at xkcd.com) that by 2019 there may be more Lego people than humans in existence. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Lego Therapy is a recognised thing, Liz Breslin writes, and brick-building brings calm, order and new avenues into her life.

Liz Breslin
Liz Breslin

I haven't been this scared about the state of the world since I was about 11 years old, walking home from the school bus, wondering whether the nuclear mushroom cloud, when it came, would actually look like an actual mushroom.

Somewhere between the sky and my homework, I would play with Lego to make it all better. Though I use the verb "to play'' to mean a whole range of other things here.

To cope, to meditate, to create, to solve, to name but a few.

Though I strayed from the multicoloured-brick path for a while in my 20s, I got the kids on to the Lego vibe as soon as I could. Indoctrination.

Lego's a lifelong love affair.

I forgive Lego for making more and more film-related sets with odd custom-shaped pieces.

I forgive them for the last two minutes of the first Lego movie.

I even forgive them, almost, for that heinous blip that was Lego Friends, pastel cutesy sets to appeal to girls.

Early in my playing days it hadn't occurred to me that the figures with bland yellow faces and no genitalia could be defined as exclusively male. Mini-figures. Not mini-men.

Lego Therapy is a recognised thing and I'm definitely on the spectrum of people who use brick-binding to bring calm, order and new avenues into my life. And I'm not alone.

Lego is basically taking over the world: it's the biggest tyre manufacturer on the planet and it's predicted (at xkcd.com) that by 2019 there may be more Lego people than humans in existence.

Yet we have met people who don't know how to Lego, while staying in our big orange van at Moulay Bouzektoun, a remote kitesurfing spot in Morocco.

Our kids played with locals, from the ages of seven to 16, who knew how to sell their mother's homecrafted woollen beanies in four or more languages but had no idea of how to tessellate plastic bricks. Or why you would even want to.

Which is a strange and culture-shocking thing for a family fluent in Lego.

Still, for an afternoon, it provided common ground.

Thanks to our intergenerational obsession, there's not much in our house that can't be dissipated by tipping the whole chest of pieces out on to a sheet, dividing it by the number of players, setting a theme and a timer.

A great leveller.

Given the state of the world, I decided I needed a proper big behemoth of a Lego project to distract me from the news this holidays. Spurred by the sight of a Lego Red Five X-wing Starfighter in a friend's office, I downloaded the original instructions for the mid-sized Millennium Falcon I bought five years ago and decided the world would be a better place if I could get it made.

Sifting through the entire melee of mixed-up sets is a sort of meditation on the impossibility of life in general and of finding part 4211508 in particular.

I managed to stay faithful to the exact brick specifications until the ninth section, with 41 more to go.

The mindset, as always: if I put the right pieces in exactly the right places, then it will also magically fix the water chlorination problems in Hawea and the idiots throwing MOABs like nerf rockets. If only.

Since then, in an ungrateful and ungraceful acquiescence, I have employed plastic straws and plaited flax, substituted colours, and jimmied up shapes.

I have looked in and behind all the crannies and sworn blue there is a monster spaceship hiding somewhere, made of all the pieces I really need.

It's a conspiracy.

I even cleaned out the vacuum cleaner.

I'm up to section 32 now, and feeling out of sorts.

The end is in sight, with enough plastic and creative resources to get there.

I'm doing what I can, with what I've got, but I'm scared to finish.

Scared because when I raise my head from the oners and threers and four squares, the world is still in a state and the floor's a mess and I wish I was still 11 years old and Lego could make everything better again.

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