Puzzle Logic

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“It turns out that an eerie type of chaos can lurk just behind a facade of order– and yet, deep inside the chaos lurks an even eerier type of order.” –Douglas Hostadter

Today was a gorgeous day in America’s Finest City.  Actually, the past week has been amazing.  The sun has been out in all its glory and has drawn the flowers from their hiding places.  Greens stretch across hills and parks, broken only by bright patches of yellow, pink and clean white.  So, with all of this surrounding me, I laid down on my floor and started a jigsaw puzzle. 

I definitely could, and probably should, have spent some quality time outside today.  After running errands and changing plans, I stretched like a cat in the sun that spilled across my living room and opened up a puzzle that I bought months ago.  I haven’t put one together since I was a child, but I wanted something to show for my afternoon of laziness.  Sifting through the pieces, pulling out the misshapen fractions, I felt a sense of calm begin to melt over me.

The past few days have been filled with anxiety and frustration.  I have felt something akin to depression set in, weighing me down.  Simple errands that, a week ago, were filled with a peace and mild contentment take more effort and cause more frustration than one might believe.  It was as if a dark cloud slowly moved in and settled inside me, blocking out light and clarity.  I’m still in whatever funk has found me, but the sadness stayed at bay for a while today.  Something peaceful and light cleaned out my mind as I began to link pieces together.

My delight in this puzzle is completely unexpected.  I sped through the border and began to sort out the trickier inner pieces.  The chaos, disorder and mess of the pieces did not phase me.  I like order, neatness, logic.  I want my markers in the order of the light spectrum.  I organize greeting cards by occasion, January through December.  Jumbled things typically cause my muscles to tighten and mind to panic.  I cannot shop at Ross.  But today, the disorder was not only acceptable, it was welcoming.  It begged to be organized, to be completed.  I had a difficult time getting very far.  As a perfectionist, I veer away from things I cannot excel at.  This did not happen either.  I simply left it to continue later.  No fear or frustration, simply a sense of starting something that would take time to finish.

There is a power in putting together a puzzle, and a poetry.  While I did not design the picture, nor cut the pieces, I am creating.  I am taking brokenness and making a whole.  From the chaos, order emerges.  But it’s more than order.  It’s completion.  The puzzle can only go together one way.  It can only fit just so.  There is a secret to unlock.  Puzzles are great because you can’t have an advantage.  Sure, some people see the whole easier, but all in all, it’s an equalizer.  When I am finished, I will take the puzzle apart and put it back in its box.  If I began it again the next day, I would not be at an advantage.  I won’t remember which pieces go together, they won’t tumble out of the box in the same order.  It’s a clean slate. 

It’s refreshing to dwell in the disorder.  I don’t do this in my life.  Ever.  However, here, it is okay.  I sat and sifted through pieces, not puting any two together, and did not worry.  I took time to see the pieces.  They look similar at a distance.  Sure, some have indentations, other protrusions.  On a closer examination, they are nuanced.  The pieces really are all different, in picture and shape. 

The metaphor is clear and nevertheless powerful.  Without any one piece, exactly the way it is, the complete is impossible.  No piece can take the place of another.  It takes time to find the spot it was made for, patience and vision, but once you see where it goes, it slips in effortlessly.  You don’t force a piece into place.  You can search and work, but mostly it hits you, in a moment of clarity, exactly where it belongs.  Slowly, as pieces find their home, the chaos melts into a whole, into order.  It becomes clear that the chaos was not real to begin with.  The order was always there.  It simply takes time to see the bigger picture.

“There are no extra pieces in the universe.  Everyone is here because he or she has a place to fill, and every piece must fit itself into the big jigsaw puzzle.”  –Deepak Chopra

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