Clay Allsopp

How It Feels To Build

Nov 25, 2012

It starts with an idea, and then we plunge an arm into the nothingness. And one tightened fist at a time, we pull from it any material we can. Scoop by scoop, it slowly takes shape. And the more of our creation we see, however nascent or crude, the quicker our pace; our designs multiply and ambitions soar until we're racing, and our own bodies struggle to fly alongside our imaginations, and from a soup of nothing except ourselves, we build.

We build skyscrapers and cathedrals. Rockets and subways. All like lightning from our minds, striking down through our fingertips. Not measured in years or months, but hours and days. What was once impossible is now quaint, and what is inconceivable today will soon be common. That's why we keep chasing and breathlessly rushing on to the next one.

But for a small moment, we stand toes in the sand and hesitate, looking back at what we built before. A lucky few of our structures might still be illuminated in the night, faint beacons of our past success. But no, so much of it erodes...standing empty and forgotten. So much thought, so much effort, so much love and care left derelict and crumbling. It makes you wonder why we should even push onward.

Because if you stop for too long, you can hear the echoes. Of the arguments and turmoil that went into constructing each one. Of what, and who, we lost along the way. And what it all used to mean to us, how exciting it was at the start. And really, that's what'll take it out of you: that it was actually us that didn't work out. That we rose too high, dallied too long, or even just chose the wrong thing to make. That it was our fault.

And for that moment, it's absolutely crippling. But, right before we succumb and fade away, we remember all those who came before us. No different than you and me, they hit the same walls, saw the same wreckage, and felt just as frozen. They too were ready to abandon it all, but instead they changed. They broke loose, and chose to live with and learn from their mistakes. It never got easier nor did it ever feel quite the same, but when it finally did work was just electric.

So we remember our past and advance cautiously, one step at a time. Until suddenly, seduced by the next hot spark of inspiration, we run. And we hope that what we build this time might be different.

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