“(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”
– Walt Whitman –
Walt Whitman gave us a 52-part free verse celebration of the self in Song of Myself. He kept constructing his continually expanding Leaves of Grass for 33 years, until he proclaimed it “at last complete” on his deathbed in 1891.
When I was old enough to qualify for monthly pocket money from my parents I used to buy a little box of Lego each month for R10 (ten South African Rand). Each box usually contained a Lego figurine and a small vehicle related to construction work on the moon or in space. Over time I built up a small collection of little plastic people and the interlocking building blocks that made up their unearthly world.
When summer and winter vacations gave me a break from the tortures of a public school education I would pour all the pieces I had stored away onto my bed. I would examine and sort and classify and remember all the Lego things I’d built before.
And then I would build something new. I would never build the same thing twice. Each time I’d be lost for hours with nothing but Lego and my imagination. By the end of the vacation I’d have calluses and small cuts on my fingers from putting Lego together and pulling Lego apart. Some plastic bricks bore the evidence of my teeth marks.
I feel the same way about the small pieces making up who I am. I can be put together and pulled apart as needed without losing the essence of who I am. I contain multitudes. I believe we all do.
So whenever I’m feeling tiny and insignificant, I think of my Lego days from a long time ago (or from earlier ago as Oliver likes to say. I remember feeling excitement and also fear when I saw a large pile of Lego pieces on my bed challenging me to create something amazing.
It seemed impossible. I remembered each creation always first started with one small piece of Lego. So I would choose the first piece at random and get started.
These days it’s easy to get overwhelmed by life and its many demands and complexities. There are way too many pieces to put them all together properly.
My advice: start with one piece and then add another.
I am large. I am an infinite puzzle containing a multitude of pieces. And I can only patiently make sense of them all one by one. It is a lifelong pursuit of minuscule steps toward completion and wholeness. Enjoy the process. I do.