Association Bingo

I built a 70-foot long stone wall in my back yard while listening to a podcast of the history of Rome a few years ago. It took two years— building the wall, that is, not Rome– which, as we all know, wasn’t built in a day.

My little Roman wall: Four feet high. Two and a half-feet thick. A ton a linear foot. One rock at a time.

Then I did half of it over.

A section of the wall wasn’t built very well — OK, I didn’t build it very well— and it fell over after 10 years’ rains. (I think that part was built during the period covering the year of five emperors and one of the civil wars, so I don’t take all of the blame. Oh, who am I kidding. I screwed it up and it fell over.) Having to do it over gave me time to fit in all of the episodes I missed, while pondering the consequences of one’s mistakes. Hard physical labor will do that for you.

I also remember listening to a another podcast series “Ghosts of the Ostefront” about the Eastern Front war between Stalin and Hitler. I was painting shutters on the front of my house in a blazing sun at the time.

Every time I look at those shutters now, I think about the carnage of the Eastern Front, and am glad I only had to paint shutters. And the wall brings to mind columns of marble and statues and murder and intrigue and legions on the march. My wall was built to the echoes of an empire who’s ruins still stand. Maybe the wall will last long after I’m gone, too.

And this is enough.

10 Replies to “Association Bingo”

  1. One of my favorite teaching tools is the fall of Rome. I use it in my international business class and the lessons learned are entirely student input driven and consensus based. Without looking at the data I have collected, I am fairly comfortable in asserting that the top 10 causes are generally the same across classes. The lessons from studying the fall of ancient Rome are relevant and many, although I will admit that I hadn’t thought of it within the context of building my own wall. 🙂


    1. I can recommend Dan Carlin’s “Hardcore History” series if you have any walls to rebuild, then.

      iTunes podcast:

      Website with links to archives:

      He does Rome, the Punic Wars, WWI and WWII and the Mongols and the European invasion of the new world (“Globalization Unto Death”) and a bunch of other topics, all well researched. His voice can be a little annoying, but the content is so good I ignore that.


      1. I’ve discovered Dan Carlin! Fascinating and very cool stuff. I haven’t listened to everything he’s done as of yet because my focus was mainly ancient Rome at the time.

        You’re right about the annoying voice part. egads.

        Like minds rock the world! 😉


        1. Another one I like is, well, anything by Lars Brownwell. He did an excellent series on 12 Byzantine emperors, but then did a huge series of more than 160 episodes on the Romans. Have you heard of him? iTunes for him, too.


              1. Awesome! It seems that I am pretty doggone good at building walls and that tearing them down has been my challenge. I suppose once I’m finished deconstructing I will reconstruct carefully, if at all. Construction inherently implies future maintenance and I’m beginning to think life is better without certain types of walls to worry about. Once I’m in a well-adjusted, emotionally safe place I imagine it to be fortified with very few walls and many beautiful plants and flowers.


                1. Much better way to put it. I think the wall metaphor breaks down if we take it too far. But remember my “law of unintended consequences,” — yes, dammit, I still claim authorship! 🙂 — that we can’t control for 100 percent of the variables in life, and so there will always be things that cannot be contained in a plan. You’d probably be able to do better at that than most, but there will always be something that wafts in on the breeze or drives through our front doors. I’ve taught groups about how to deal with the pace of change in technology and to not over-invest in one way of doing things. I think of it as keeping a suitcase packed in the hall closet in case I need to move quickly.

                  That said, though, I’d guess you will build a very beautiful garden, a peaceful place.


                2. OK, I’m going to zip past the technology piece because it is squarely within my discipline-centered crosshairs, but yes, spot on. And with regard to risk, if anybody actually believes they can nail foreseeing every risk in every situation, they have bigger problems than technology management plans. I’d call that rigid to the point of ridiculous which entails living in an illusion.

                  Um, no. Just no.

                  Yes, peaceful, serene, beautiful and lousy with lovely. That’s what I want. Now, then, and always.


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