hel·low (ˈhelō/) exclamation. A salutation embodying the vibrant energy found in the color yellow.

09 April 2014

Jigsaw Puzzles & Other Pointless Things

People say that puzzles are good for the mind. Doing puzzles helps with memory and cognition and problem-solving ability. Puzzles are just all-around good things to keep the mind "sharp." Whether it be Sunday newspaper crosswords, Sudoku books, Rubik's cubes, or jigsaw puzzles, these are great workouts for the mind. They are an excuse to keep it active, but for what point? Upon completion of a Sudoku grid or crossword, a momentary feeling of accomplishment is aroused and you feel great. But why? You have accomplished nothing. You completed a mentally stimulating (questionable) task and nothing changes. Most puzzles are about as useful as this list of useless objects that can be considered art (although many of these are admittedly quite clever and mildly inspirational).

One of the most interesting products available for sale is puzzle glue--an adhesive used to preserve completed jigsaw puzzles so that you may frame your hard work and hang it from a wall like a taxidermized animal head. Jigsaw puzzles exist for a feeling of false accomplishment. They were once complete pictures that were later divided into hundreds of little pieces for the purpose of being put back together again. They could be about the journey--the process of rebuilding a purposefully deconstructed image--and the end product/destination is irrelevant, but at what point does the time investment of completing these puzzles become selfish? Economically, the opportunity cost is quite astounding, but what's the big deal?--it's just a puzzle. The amount of energy spent to turn a pile of cardboard pieces into a complete image could have many better uses. Completing a jigsaw and returning it to its box is a circle of pointlessness intended to sharpen one's mind. A spinning whetstone sharpens swords in the same circular motion.

At the end of the day, the glued-together puzzle on the wall could have been made without dividing it into a thousand pieces and putting it back together and coating it in adhesive. If the mind needs to be sharpened, there are plenty of problems in the world to be solved and plenty of constructive projects to improve mental acuity. But this sounds stressful and fun-sucking. To compare a relaxing process and the gamut of unsolved global issues is absurd. The mental challenge of solving larger problems, while good exercise for the mind, does not return the relaxing results that a simple jigsaw puzzle affords. These pointless puzzles offer a form of meditation, almost. They provide a goal, although not that important in the scheme of things, but a goal nonetheless. In order to achieve the goal, a series of small, and slightly mindful tasks are required. Puzzles, in all their self-serving existence, can be a therapeutic means to mental health. The impracticality of solving these playful problems is globally sinful but personally enriching.

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