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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Puzzle

I would rather work a puzzle than play a game and here’s why: puzzles lead to solutions and games end with a judgment; puzzles cultivate will and games exploit weakness; puzzles foster cooperation and games nurture rivalry; puzzles elevate, encourage, bring completion and satisfaction to participants while in games thrive castigation, discouragement, irresolution and dissatisfaction.

The difference may also be seen by considering what it means to “win.” G. K. Chesterton wrote in his essay, “There is no such thing as backing a winner. There is no such thing as fighting on the winning side. One fights to find out which is the winning side.” (“Part One: The Homelessness of Man” in What’s Wrong with the World.) Trying to understand what this means, I think of a cartoon clipping is posted on the door of one of my colleagues. The panel depicts two soldiers pouring hot oil on the enemy below the castle. One says to the other, “Win or lose, I love doing this.” Many don’t know when to stop, and they simply enjoy the thrill of “doing this” to others.

Interesting to wonder along with Socrates who the brave man is: the one who with assistance fights against fewer and weaker men from a stronger position . . . ?

What got me thinking about this was my exploration into why there exists such disunity among people. Why are we divided? Why does segregation happen? These things happen because of selfishness, simply, and this affects the outcome. In other words, how can two sides work toward a solution if they compete? Solutions are unattainable. Think of what this means when people strive for unity: they divide. Every attempt to come together leads to division and the gap of segregation remains unbridged. “Sure, we can come together, but you must do it my way.” This kind of thinking changes the way people relate to others and the outcome is almost always disastrous.

There is a positive side to division: you can’t eat (much less pick up) a pizza unless it is divided. The divisions are not any less “pizza,” and are still part of the whole. You can’t very well put a dollar bill into the parking meter, but need a small division of money. Contrast this with segregation (and here I am thinking “racial segregation”). How many races are there, and if there is more than one, wouldn’t be consistent drop “human race” from our vocabulary? This kind of division works no more than slicing off a part of my pizza and calling it “bread sticks.”

Segregation is good when necessary. For example, employees of a corporation are just that: employees; but there are some meetings that only administrators or executives need attend and not clerks or janitors. I am happy NOT to sit on the President’s Cabinet, or the Dean’s Cabinet, for that matter; but when it comes to strategic thinking on a matter that crosses my desk, you bet I’ll be there!

Here’s the point: humans are hostile because we are fallen. This excuses nothing and affects everything. My next door neighbors will not talk to me because they have broken into my house—they have damaged the relationship, or support others in doing so. We do the same thing when we lie, for example. We don’t live with the best interest of someone else in mind. Instead, we make it a game so we come out looking good in the end. The best interest of someone else should be our own, a puzzle for us to solve together.

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