The Deconstructionist's Sandwich

May 2021

Suppose you sit a chef in front of a sandwich. He will probably eat the sandwich. He may take notes about the sandwich: one ingredient seemed overpowering, the bread was well toasted, cilantro would make a nice addition. The chef may use this sandwich to inform his future sandwich-making decisions. Perhaps this experience makes him a better chef. At the very least, he will have had a nice meal (or if the sandwich was bad, a meal nonetheless).

 

Now suppose you sit a deconstructionist in front of a sandwich. True to form, he may deconstruct the sandwich. He may meticulously categorize the pickles, the lettuce, the tomatoes, the ham, the turkey, the bread, and if he’s particularly discerning, the salt, the sesame seeds and so on. He may claim that he now really understands the sandwich, he’s broken it down into its most fundamental form, and can analyze each component stripped bare. But our deconstructionist-sandwich-connoisseur has no more insight as do you or I on how that sandwich actually tastes. And I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to claim that he has come no closer to being able to construct a more delicious sandwich. Unfortunately, if our deconstructionist friend continues along this path, without ever venturing to try his hand at making a sandwich, as our chef has done many times, he will be ill-equipped to make a good sandwich.

 

It is better to make a bad sandwich than none at all. Making a bad sandwich is the first step towards making a good sandwich, or a great sandwich, or the perfect sandwich. We can debate the morality of making bad sandwiches until the end of time, but making any sandwich will always carry more value than making nothing. Inaction may be intentional, carefully thought out, or it may be unintentional, a derivative of apathy — either way, the effect is the same. Go too long only deconstructing existing creations and not replacing them with any new ones, and we may find ourselves completely unable to create anything at all. If we spend too much time deconstructing sandwiches, centuries down the line, we may forget what a sandwich was in the first place. We will be unable to put the ingredients before us together in any meaningful way. So long as the perfect one eludes us, there is no reason to stop creating sandwiches, even bad ones.