A lot of time that I spend with my daughter involves watching one of the following two activities:
- Putting things into some kind of container.
- Taking things out of some kind of container.
I have come to call these collective activities CONSTRUCTO (1) VS. DESTRUCTO (2). Sometimes it is an utterly fascinating train wreck to watch, like a Godzilla vs. Whomever movie. Other times it is so repetitive, I swear I can hear the synapses growing in her brain, one cell at a time. Other times it’s just terrifying, mainly due to the nature of both the “things” and the “container.” We gave up early on “tupperware” in the “kitchen cabinet,” but decided to park a chair in front of the “stereo” in the “glass cabinet.” I hardly ever refer to only one or the other, because they don’t seem to exist on their own anymore. She’s constantly just picking one, then doing the opposite.
It used to be frustrating. We’d buy her a toy and she’d rather play CONSTRUCTO VS. DESTRUCTO with our magazines. And it wasn’t only only frustrating from selfish “we wasted our money buying you that thing” perspective. It was more about not being able to relate to her strange little brain. Why do you want to do this? Aren’t you bored with the freaking tupperware yet? Yes, I saw you put the finger puppets into that box, and now you want to take them out, not play with them, and then put them back. That’s great. WHY!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
But the game has progressed to new levels. She now likes to wear our shoes and walk around. (Things=Feet, Container=Shoes). It’s absolutely terrifying how quickly she is learning, and how much more complicated the game gets every single day. And now it’s a short leap to being just like any adult I know.
I play CONSTRUCTO VS. DESTRUCTO all the time. Every day. Every hour. Every minute. If I’m not building something, I’m tearing something apart. I actually can’t think of another good category to put activities into, with one exception—sometimes it’s both. Really, most of the time it’s both. It’s a constant balancing act, and you never want either side to win. Entropy is one of the most powerful forces in the universe, and it competes with gravity all the time. If gravity wins, you get a black hole. If entropy wins, you get a void.
Just watching this game helped me understand the evolution of my perception on songwriting and recording. I think of songwriting as CONSTRUCTO—I start with nothing, and I build until I end up with something. But now I think of recording as DESTRUCTO—some kind of reverse songwriting event. From the minute I start recording, it’s like a time bomb is ticking down to zero. It used to be a lot more difficult to know when something was done, but I’m getting better at it thanks to these two monsters. It’s like that dream sequence in Six Degrees Of Separation:
“This is what I dreamt. I didn’t dream, so much as realise this . . . I thought . . . how easy it is for a painter to lose a painting. He paints and paints, works on a canvas for months, and then, one day, he loses it. Loses the structure, loses the sense of it. You lose the painting. I remembered asking my kids’ second-grade teacher: ‘Why are all your students geniuses? Look at the first grade—blotches of green and black. The third grade—camouflage. But your grade, the second grade . . . Matisses, every one. You’ve made my child a Matisse. Let me study with you. Let me into the second grade. What is your secret?'”
“I don’t have any secret. I just know when to take their drawings away from them.”
Maybe that’s why children spend so much time playing this game. They’re just learning the rules of balance. The trick is to never stop playing the game, because the rules change all the time. Godzilla has to let Mothra win every once in awhile.
(P.S. Happy Valentine’s Day, JP!)