Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Born to Build

I haven't posted much of late. I have been on vacation without an internet connection and it was just too difficult to post. Being without a connection for an extended period was tough but I discovered (rediscovered?) how much I like to read a book or play a game with family or just take a walk. It was a very nice break. In any event, now I am back and I hope to continue my musings when I think I have something to say.

Yesterday, we were down at the beach (we winter in Florida) and it struck me just how deeply embedded is our desire to build. I watched toddlers still in diapers tripping across the sand to dig a hole or fill a bucket with shells or water. Kids just a little bit older were busy making more elaborate holes and simple sand castles with a mote. Their parents...usually, their dad...was into a kind of sandy empire building with multi-layer castles, motes, shell decorations, and generally outdoing their neighbor's sand castle.

Why the deep urge to build? Where did this desire come from? Do we have it programmed into our genes? Does a sandy beach and a pail and shovel simply demand to be tamed? I don't know but I think it says a lot about us. Not only do we build but we build simply for the fun of it. We don't need a reason. We just like to see what might be possible to create with the world right in front of us. Sand (and water) turn out to be a particularly rich combination of building materials. The sand is plentiful. A little water turns the grains into a moldable material that stays put, within limits. Sand is so easy, to dig it is literally child's play. The only things that comes close to sand and water is mud and clay. But sand is a lot more fun.

Given this early exposure to building for fun, it doesn't surprise me that our ancestors first built with mud and simple bricks. I can easily imagine a child of six or ten thousand years ago doing just what kids today do and in the process learning the basics of brick making. It would take millennia for the art of building to move to more substantive and difficult materials. But the world did pretty well for a very long time with only the simple mud brick. I like to think it started with a child and a pile of sand or mud. We were born to build.

[Image of ancient city of Mohenjo-daro from Indus Valley, 2600 BC, Wikipedia]

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