Question 115 of 365: When should we build things just to knock them down?

Question 115 of 365: When should we build things just to knock them down?

Domino Rally
Image by unloveablesteve via Flickr

Domino Rally required a lot of patience. Setting up the huge amount of dominos in a row without knocking them over required a steady hand and an iron will to get to the very end of your plan instead of settling for knocking it down half-way through. I played it almost constantly whenever a friend had a set. I liked to watch them topple, sure, but I also liked seeing just how far apart I could put them to stretch out the configuration or how high I could get them to climb over books. I’m not sure that my friends always shared the same enthusiasm. They could go for doing it once or twice, but the time it took to build so far outweighed the toppling time that it hardly seemed worth it to them.

It was, however, worth it to me. The time that I spent setting those dominos right and keeping them that way over carpet, hardwood and tile was what made the whole experience what it was. I was creating destroyable art and it held my imagination like little else. Unbeknownst to me, there is an entire subculture of people who weren’t constrained to the pre-made sets of a Domino Rally toy. They were creating art, telling stories and paying perfect homages to pop culture. They have been creating domino falls and constructing elaborate runs of kinetic energy long before I understood what the domino effect even was. And even though I was never as proficient or patient as the folks creating these masterpieces, I understood that there was something majestic about not worrying about destroying your own creation before anyone else has the chance to.

I could put sand sculpture and sidewalk painting into a similar category, but those pursuits let others demolish the beauty of the original work. It is the temporary nature of all of this that I find fascinating. Whether you do the destructive act or not, there is something incredibly satisfying about knowing that you are giving your work a specific time limit for greatness. This timed perfection is something that could be more widely applied if we accept that all great works of creation are held in a particular time and space and that any attempt at recreating or extending those two things will fall terribly off the mark.

I put it to you that institutions should be like a great domino fall. They should take strategy, inspiration, and an incredible amount of diligence to create. Everyone that participates in the build learns something new and they develop the relationships of that only attempting something hard with others can foster. The people that build it know where the weak points are, the problem areas that could cause everything to devolve. They see the whole thing in their mind’s eye, recognizing the beauty and potential of what is to come. They are the ones who set off the chain reaction too. Everyone cheers as a well orchestrated ballet of movement commences. There is a held moment of existence for everyone who witnesses a great build and fall. We are all better for having witnessed it.

And then, the builders pack up their equipment and proceed to their next adventure. They take everything that they have learned and make the next creation even more ambitious and awe-inspiring. They do not try and pick up the pieces of the last build and try and set it off again. There is nothing new for them there. They would simply be doing the same exercise and hoping for the same result. That doesn’t make sense, not for the world of dominos or the world of business, education, or other creative work.

We are all builders and learners. We are all starters of chain reactions. We know, too, just how hard it is to pry ourselves away from having done something flawlessly and trying to do it again somewhere else. But we must. We must not allow our successes trip us up and make us unable to move forward.

The biggest part of this question is really trying to figure out just what it is that I am building, and what I am learning from it, and how I am going to let it go once I accomplish at least some of the things I have set out to do. Just how easy will it be for me to walk away from the systems I have set up? How quickly will I be able to set up a new series of ideas elsewhere? And who will come with me when I do?

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