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Playing by the rules: a story of LEGOs and generals


I finally saw the LEGO Movie and in the first five minutes knew that it had a more effective anti-consumerism, anti-conformity message than Wall-E. As the perverse music played it was clear that society was a prison we build for ourselves. It reminded me of another story.

When Hannibal took his Carthaginian army from Spain through the Alps to get to Rome it completely shattered everything anyone knew about the world. The effect was profound. Imagine waking up tomorrow and the entire Russian army had teleported into Washington. That would be impossible right? Just imagine waking up to that story on the news. Thats what it felt like in Rome when Hannibal broke all the rules and jumped the Alps.

Hannibal won because he broke the rules. He did things you just weren’t supposed to do.

Frankly, the Alps were one of the least impressive things Hannibal did.

Frankly, the Alps were one of the least impressive things Hannibal did. In the Battle of Cannae (pronounced like Ken-Nay”) he did something that tacticians, generals, and military historians have been puzzling over ever since. He used an inferior force of 50,000 men to surround and destroy 90,000 men. The effect was so terrible that the Romans would never again engage in any real battle with Hannibal in Italy.

What he did is supposed to be impossible. A feat that has yet to be repeated as far as I know.

Following the rules

Rules are great shortcuts for living in society. They make life easier, but those rules can also build up like a prison. My dream is to do Y but I’m supposed to do X.

I little while ago my brother broke all the rules. He quit his lucrative job, sold all his stuff, and bought a van so he could travel around the country. What a marvelous adventure!

Lately we’ve been breaking all kinds of rules at work. Rules like you’re supposed to work 9-5. With the freedom to work when it makes sense I’ve found myself incredibly productive in the morning. I wake up, get out my laptop and work while everyone else is in bed. I might go back to sleep before going into the office. Burned out in the afternoon? Take off and spend time with the family, pick it back up in the evening when it makes sense. I’m not working less, if anything I’m working more but its more enjoyable because its on my terms.

Rules have a place, they have a use, they can save lives, and they can be great. In the LEGO movie we see the struggle for balance between following the rules and following free expression. Its a tough balance to find.

It seems like we err on the side of rules. Sometimes its good to forget the rules, go around the problem, and think extra-dimensionally.

Posted Saturday, March 22, 2014

Wait. LEGO is lecturing us about consumerism?