The Ideal Castle
The Ideal Castle

The Ideal Castle

Recently, I’ve been reading Matt Haig’s novel “The Humans.” The novel tells the tale of a famous mathematician being abducted and unsuspectedly replaced by an alien. While this alien understands time travel, quantum physics, and the most difficult math problems unsolvable to man, this alien knows nothing about what it means to be human. And so, this highly-intelligent life form wanders Earth trying to figure out what it is all about, and one woman explains the meaning of human life in a way that will stick with me for a long time.

“She said being human is being a young child on Christmas Day who receives an absolutely magnificent castle. And there is a perfect photograph of this castle on the box and you want more than anything to play with the castle and the knights and the princesses because it looks like such a perfectly human world, but the only problem is that the castle isn’t built”

The idea that all human life is childlike fascinates me. From birth, people try putting our lives together for us — what will this child’s name be, how will we raise them, where will they sleep? And once we become conscious, attain memories, and form agency, we take the wheel of our own life’s course with no autopilot or guiding hand.

The Lincoln logs of our ideal castle — of who we want to be, in what ways we wish to be perceived, how we will be remembered — are tossed down before us as nothing more than basic components and life says, “start building.”

And maybe you’ve experienced this same feeling. It’s Christmas day and you receive the huge Barbie mansion or a massive Hot Wheels track. The pictures on the box illustrates a perfectly built toy and children having a blast, and all you have are pieces, parts, and a disappointed heart.

In this situation of life, I believe you can either laugh or you can cry.

You can take the nihilistic route and lay down in your sorrow. You may be overly intimidated by the call of building the ideal castle, or you may even believe the task is impossible, and you give up.

Or you can laugh your new toy in the face and start building, one block at a time.

I really enjoy thinking of this ideal castle as being made of Lincoln logs for a couple of different reasons. First, it adds more chaos to the anomaly of life that this analogy is getting at. Let’s take it one step further and say that each piece of this castle doesn’t only have one spot where it fits properly. There’s no instruction manual to a set of Lincoln logs because the answer is not outside of your existence. And even if there were an instruction manual, striving for it is as unattainable as trying to squeeze your folded-up mattress back into the original packaging.

Similarly, life doesn’t unfold in just one manner. You can give two children the same set of Lincoln logs and they will build two entirely distinguishable structures most likely. The Lincoln logs remind us that life is absurd and void of meaning. In a deconstructed state the logs mean nothing but, mixed with human labor, they can form into beautiful houses, skyscrapers, or castles.

Secondly. I like the analogy of Lincoln logs because each of these logs is not only filled with the potential to do anything, but each part plays an equal role in the castle you are building. In “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, Clear argues each action we commit is a vote for the identity we wish to build. Every homework assignment you complete, work meeting you participate in, or Netflix show you watch is you utilizing the roughly 692,000 hours of existence you possess to cast yourself as a student, worker, and Netflix binger.

Once more, we cannot look to the ideal castle to tell us what our lives should be like. Instead of reaching for the unattainable, perfect life or worrying we won’t reach our dreams, we must channel our energy and evoke the childlike tendencies within us by just doing. Rip that box open, spill out all those Lincoln logs, and begin building the foundation of your ideal castle. As Clear urges us, build the systems and environment that will breed healthy habits, set goals and dreamline your ideal career, hustle, or end destination in life, and build up a mindset that believes all this can be done because you are capable.

Have an awesome week!

  • Chantz

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