Parable of the Bricks

Old Ruins - photo by Suliman Sallehi ( by Suliman Sallehi

When I was a young man, I began searching for the meaning of life. Along the way, I wrote a travel journal, a mix of prose and poetry, and labelled it Fool’s Odyssey.

I knew the idealism of my Spanish Marxist friends was a false construct. But why? And why had each of my imaginary lives failed?

I wanted to be by myself. What a strange expression, “by myself.” How do you do that exactly, be by yourself? Anyway, I don’t know if I was trying to be by myself or just nearer, but I grabbed my journal and went for a walk in the hills. I eventually came upon a ruin that had once been a cathedral, and wrote:

Castles and cathedrals

Sacred and profane

Dust to dust and ashes to ashes

Life is just a bowl of remains

“God, or whoever you are, I whispered, “I don’t want to be by myself anymore. I think I want to be by you.”

But something was in the way.

Almost immediately, I pictured the man who might have built the cathedral. He looked a lot like me, only older, and Spanish, and different, and nothing like me at all, really, except that he was empty inside. Like me.

He pointed to the ruins, and said, “They were built in your lifetime.”

“What?” I said. “What happened?”

“I was an architect, a bold and progressive young thinker who laughed at all of the crumbling edifices hereabouts because I knew what was wrong with them. I had found the flaws in their design and their construction. I would make a new work after a new plan, a perfect structure, one that would never fall! And I built it. I built it! And it was perfect.

“But then it fell! Madre de Dia, it fell just like every other cursed thing, and within a few short years began to crumble and crawl back to the earth. Why? I went over my plans a thousand times, and after the crumbling began, a thousand times more.

“Finally, I ran to this place with my hammer and began smashing it against a wall. And then I saw… But I couldn’t believe what I saw, so I smashed open brick after brick after brick, until I finally had to believe. The cursed bricks were hollow! Eaten away from the inside out by some unseen thing. They were useless, dead, could barely shoulder the slightest weight before they began to crumble and fall in upon themselves.

“No, my plan was good,” he concluded, “maybe even perfect. But what can you build with hollow bricks?”

I left Spain that day. I couldn’t go back to Gabriella and her friends, back to rebuilding society with condiments on tabletops. Because I finally saw that all of us—all of us—are hollow bricks. And it isn’t the plans that need to change…

But the bricks.

To read the next episode, click here.


About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Fool's Odyssey, For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Poetry and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Parable of the Bricks

  1. Pingback: My Life of Radical Idealism Comes to an End | Mitch Teemley

  2. Abe Austin says:

    Hollow bricks. What a wonderful way to sum up the vanity of the constructs of man. Funnily enough, I just finished studying the Tower of Babel, and they, too, thought they could build their own way to paradise.

    Liked by 10 people

  3. I saw a sign in a business one time that reminds me of your point.

    “If the plan doesn’t work out change the plan, but never the goal.”

    The goal is a restored relationship with God. Our plans to accomplish this have been anywhere from misguided to nonexistent. Thankfully, God had a plan of His own—Jesus.
    Thanks, Mitch!

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Powerful Mitch. A reminder to stay humble. And be willing to receive. (There is no doubt that ‘my plans’ have been torn down time and time again. Thank God. Because a plan exists much bigger than my own. And I here for ALL OF IT).. :_)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. revruss1220 says:

    Beautiful. Such a deadly accurate analog of our time. And, as usual, you’ve provided so very many points to ponder. The point I will be scratching my head about for the next week or so is, “How much of my recent attention has been devoted to devising the right PLANS instead of employing the right BRICKS?”

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I really like your parable.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Eric Mathews says:

    This series has reminded me at times of TS Eliot’s The Hollow Men. This post made me read the poem again.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Unicorn Dreaming says:

    Great story and great parable.. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  9. oneta hayes says:

    “within a few short years began to crumble and crawl back to the earth.” So picturesque! An example of your great writing. The context is wonderful. It is true that we are created hollow beings until we fill ourselves with Christ. So good.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Debi Walter says:

    Grateful to know the Master Builder who fills hollow places with Himself.
    Love this series so much, Mitch.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Ann Coleman says:

    So well said, Mitch!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Pingback: Why? | Mitch Teemley

  13. Don says:


    Liked by 1 person

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