Another Piece of the Puzzle

Last night I serentypically found myself at Draw and Amira’s for a potluck. As entertainment Amira produced a jigsaw puzzle, a photomosaic of a Van Gogh self-portrait. For those unfamiliar (and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to find a good photo anywhere on the net) a photomosaic is one of those images that consists of thousands of smaller images that when combined and viewed from a distance come together to create one large complete image. So, each puzzle piece had one, or fragments of several tiny photographs, making completing the 1000 piece puzzle that much more challenging.

Great, thrilling I hear you say. You’re on the edge of your seats. Or not. But let me tell you what working on this puzzle taught me about being human and happy.

Several of us sat down around the table to work on this puzzle together, and everyone had a slightly different technique. Stella began by collecting all the red pieces and assembling them, others started working on assembling the edges and corners. Both proved to be pretty effective techniques, though both also eventually plateaued in terms of effectiveness. As for myself I started collecting all the pieces with pictures of airplanes and helicopters on them which proved to be pretty inefficient.

Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most people would assume that the lesson I learned had to do with the most efficient way of tackling this problem of completing the puzzle, but its not. No the lesson I learned had very little to do with finishing the puzzle project. What I observed was that solving the puzzle wasn’t really the most important thing. What was important was deriving pleasure from the exercise. No I didn’t find a lot of interlocking pieces that went together, but I did enjoy collecting together and looking at all of the aircraft photographs. That’s it. Simple really. I enjoyed what I was doing, regardless of whether or not it was the most efficient route to the ultimate “goal” of the game. I was just having fun.

For someone who has historically gotten very uptight about goals and efficiency and “doing things right” this is a pretty profound thing, and what’s more I didn’t even think about it until now, a day later upon reflection. Wow. I was playing. Really playing. Without consideration for right or wrong, winning or losing. That’s pretty cool.

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