In Pink Floyd‘s song of the same name, our ‘bricks’ are our experiences, and the beliefs we develop as a result. In that anguish-filled opera, the bricks are mostly used to wall-in the album’s protagonist, who sees a world filled with pain and suffering. But that was just that character’s take on the world, and his reaction. We can build something meaningful with our bricks instead.
Every section of every day we live through has value as an experience. But each moment also acts as another brick in the structure of who we will ultimately become. Each brick itself is neutral. The question is, how will we choose to use it?
We can our bricks of experience to build a set of steps to take us higher, we can scatter them aimlessly, or we can even wall ourselves in. But no matter what, we are always creating our life, even when we’re not doing it consciously.
Each day of Medical School may feel overwhelming and challenging. But each is also a brick added to the staircase that will lead us toward becoming a doctor, and all of the experiences that flow from that. Raising children is also hard, but very rewarding.
Of course, we cannot reach those higher experiences without taking the first part of our journey by laying those first foundation stones of doing well in school, or going after someone you really love (or whatever). Some people quickly imagine a finished structure, and they start their foundations early in life, but then waver on and off along the way. Others only find their route to a meaningful life after a lot more experience, and even then, they often only find it by accident. And they too waver on and off.
In the end, no one is ever left with a perfect structure. We can’t even hope to achieve that, because everyone’s idea of ‘perfect’ would be different. So no matter what we do, whatever we build will include strange and illogical parts. But again, our living is not done in the structure. Our living is the daily act of laying a brick to create the structure. And sometimes even strange and illogical things feel good to build.
Also, even if we have found something to build toward, that does not mean we are unwise to change our minds. We can abandon what we were building, and we can use what we have as a part of something new instead. Yes, we will be somewhat limited by what we’ve already built, but as long as the day-to-day bricklaying in our new direction is more rewarding, then we’re going the right direction.
We can even invest a day of bricks on just throwing bricks away. All work and no play makes everyone miserable, eventually. But, if we’re taking a rest day, we must do so consciously, amidst a life of meaningful productivity. Only amidst that productivity will the rest gain its value. Without the productivity, rest is more like piling bricks on top of ourselves.
What’s key about all of this is that humans naturally create life wherever we go. To breathe is to lay bricks. So we can see why meaningful productivity is key. We should enjoy our bricklaying as much as possible. But we won’t be happy just dropping bricks here and there if we’re not stacking most of them up into something we find is either useful, or beautiful. In that way our moments can add up to even greater future moments featuring pride and achievement.
For some people these rewards come through building their career. Others have very basic careers that instead offer the opportunity for more time with family, or friends, or hobbies. But either way, building value with our bricks is what leads to us to our goals, be that more time with loved ones, more money, or less stress.
We don’t have to be rich, or famous, or even to be surrounded by large numbers of friends. We need very little, really. Food, shelter, some security, and a handful of really good friends. The rest often complicates our appreciation of true value.
Some of us will feel primarily compelled to climb mountains towards achievement, fame, power, or money. Still others will prefer to climb towards others, like family, charity, sports, or art. What we build with our bricks does not matter as much as if we enjoyed the process of building it. That being the case, if we truly care about the quality of our future, we should pay more attention to the bricks we are laying in the moments we are in, today.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.