We are building an igloo, because I have a compulsive desire to build igloos.
I am not interested in giving you, my children, the experience of building igloos. I don’t care if you enjoy building the igloo. I don’t care if you use the igloo. You can help build the igloo or you can do something else. I do not care. I think the right choice is for you to help build the igloo, but you’re free to do anything else. I’m going to build the igloo.
Before we begin even making the blocks for the igloo, we make an enormous pile of snow. Making the pile of snow is not fun. Also, it turns out to be useless. The next day the snow melts slightly and then at night re-freezes so that the huge pile of snow is a huge pile of ice, and not a good source of packable snow. Because we don’t know that this is our inevitable future, we spend four hours piling the snow. We use plastic sleds and a snow shovel. I shovel the snow into the plastic sleds, and the children dump the sleds on the pile of snow. Everything is working perfectly.
One child says that this is boring and that she wants to do something else. I suggest that she go do it, because the work of building the igloo cannot be done half-heartedly. Don’t waste our time. We continue into the dark, building the igloo, even though we are not building the igloo, and not even gathering snow that we will use to build the igloo. But even not building the igloo is part of building the igloo, you must understand that. Because you are building an igloo of the mind.
The next morning, I wake up early, and am immediately building the igloo. The sweat runs off my body in sheet after sheet. I am sweating like a Xerox machine. My children no longer care about the igloo. They drift away. I have heard a whisper that says there’s a direct current here. Building an igloo is a way of sticking a fork in the wall socket and tapping into the current. I begin to lay the blocks. I use a plastic tub, rectangular. It tapers from the mouth to the base, so that the rectangle at the bottom is smaller than the rectangle at the top. It makes perfect blocks of snow. The white of the snow is perfect. I work in a frenzy. I feel the tingle of a current in my finger tips. I cast my gloves off long ago. The children begin to see the design of the igloo unfold. Their interest re-emerges. They want to help. I laugh cruelly.
I tell them that they are false laborers, I revoke their inheritance, and I spit into the snow to show them that I spit them out of my mouth. I run them off, waving the snow shovel, smashing the snow shovel against the plastic sled. I work for three hours straight, in a frenzy. I pound the snow into the plastic tub, dump out a new block. I place the block, I make the next block. I am racing. More Xerox-style sweating.
My wife comes out to observe. I am in a state of flow and cannot speak. “Cool,” she says, gesturing at the igloo’s floor plan. “You’re really working out here.” It may be that she hoped that my time off would mean I spend time with her or help her do something that needs to be done. She did not know that I would hear a voice nor what that voice would require of me. I forgive her, but all I can do is continue to make and lay blocks. I cannot form human words. I point to the blocks as though those dumb stones will speak for me. She takes out her phone. She takes a picture of me pointing at the blocks. My wife looks at the photo on her phone and doesn’t recognize me in it.
The igloo is not perfect. I am not an engineer. But the whisper that demands an igloo does not demand perfection. The voice that requires an igloo asks for intensity and focus, not perfection.
The walls of the igloo rise. They reach towards each other. I begin to make thinner blocks, so that they more easily resist the urge to throw themselves down from the height of the wall. These thinner blocks become the ceiling.
I close the top of the igloo, place the last block with ferocious ceremony. I crawl in. I did not think the igloo would be so dark inside. The sun still shines, but it doesn’t even make it through the cracks between the blocks. Not even the thinner blocks at the top. This doesn’t seem possible. I lie on my back in the igloo. I lie in the perfect black. My boots block the light at the entrance to the igloo. Nothing all around me. I listen for the voice.