Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaw Puzzles and Life’s Responses

It is a common phenomenon in nature for things to have a pattern of the whole in its parts. DNA is a perfect example. Jigsaw puzzles in education is another. Jigsaw puzzles had been interesting toys for children for quite a long time before they were used as teaching aids in schools. It is very interesting to watch children put together a jigsaw puzzle. They often start with a random piece and then go first by the shape of the pieces. Thus they manage to find the corners first. Shape is a physical quality. That way it has a quantity. Next they figure out the picture. Here it is not a physical quality. They use their imagination to assume and predict the rest of the picture and as they go forward they become very fast. It looks like the pieces are offering themselves to children. The last pieces fall in very quickly and at this point the children are full of excitement which seems to wane after completing the picture. Now we know that there is more than to solving a jigsaw puzzle than entertainment. A puzzle represents questions. The data is always in the question. Mathematics, a pure science, sees the solution to a problem as the right arrangement of the parts of the question. In other words, questions, like the jigsaw puzzle or life itself, are fragmented solutions. When children are allowed to learn, we see the same thing happening. For example, in problem solving, half of the data is inside and the other half is outside. The theorem to apply is inside; the situation to apply them in is outside. Both are fragmented in the absence of the other. This becomes a basic pattern of all their learning. Nothing is learned totally from the outside world, nor totally through introspection. In fact, but for the ego there is no outside and inside. Small babies go on shaking their hands even after the rattle has dropped off their hands. Small children cry when they hear other children cry. School is the place where we are ‘taught’ not to do that. More begets more, especially in learning. Here again we see the patterns of a jigsaw puzzle. As ideas and concepts get built up in the mind around the missing link of an idea, the missing link falls in by itself like a natural response. Thus holistic ways of education always have an advantage over linear ways. It is hard to solve a jigsaw puzzle if we work in a linear way. Reflection has always been a major metaphor in Indian thought. The conscious part of mind is often referred to as ‘mind, the mirror’, manomukuram. This is probably because it gives an inside projection of outside things. This mind could also reflect the inside things and such thought are referred to as ‘reflections’. Thus the conscious mind is supposed to act as a stage where the inner and the outer come to play. This is also the part with which we learn, or the part that learns since learning seems to alter the nature of the mirror, changing the reflections forever. The things outside are not altered. But they are seen differently as we grow up and learn. So, surely the mind is altered. The same is applicable for the inner world that gets reflected in the mind. It is the mind that gets altered and not the inner world or the outside world. Since the mind is altering all the time, it is not possible for the outer world or the inner world to change and for the individual to maintain his or her sense of self or continuity at once. In other words it is not our static mind that gives us a stubborn ego but the inability of the mind to be static that gives us the sense of self or ego. Our concept of the mind is that of a sea where a single wave is up all the time. Like the groove of a phonogram record, it is the wavering that gives existence to the mind. The outside world undergoes perceivable change. Tress grow, rain falls, winds blow, crow flies. Mind could naturally be influenced by these changes. But what about looking at a painting? Here the mind fragments the picture into fleeting thoughts and creates a sense of flux to give itself an existence. Learning as we know happens in the other direction. It is the assimilation of parts into whole. Even when the nature of learning is that of analysis, we are actually taking apart something to send them to their empirical or theoretical categories. So our main task in learning through analysis is assimilating the items in respective categories. It is possible for one to get fed up with this business and stop learning all together. One might then go inward or insane. ‘Avadhoothas’ have gone insane. Religious people have gone inward. They have a chance of seeing the nature of their own mind because of the great recording device called language. An awareness of the nature of mind tells us that it is possible to have something beyond that antechamber. A further awareness of what is beyond the mind, the real static self, helps us to get a better understanding of the mind. The mind cannot play games with the inner self as it does with the world because the inner self lacks the entity called time which helps the mind to break the outer world down to fragments and make the parts scurry around. So without basing oneself in that inner self it is impossible to understand the true nature of the mind. This is one major difference between the great psychologists and their followers. This fragmentation and synthesis work also in the cosmic level, in real life situations. Time has fragmented the world into cause and effect. Every effect becomes a cause in its own time. These causes and effects can come from all directions. Newton was sage-like when he said that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Going back to the mirror imagery, life is like playing chess with the mirror. For every piece we advance, a piece of the same nature is advanced towards us from the opposite direction. In our desperate effort to win we try random patterns without understanding that life is not playing with us to win or lose. Its aim is beauty, the beauty that Keats saw as Truth. Even among fragments there is beauty in symmetrical patterns. One can arrange the pieces to make a beautiful pattern, forgetting the opponent. Artists and writers do this. One can also cooperate with life, mimic it and create a symmetrical pattern. Sages do this. It is also possible to play hard forgetting about the patterns. Ignorance lies in seeing only our part of the game board and judging success and defeats. Intelligence lies in having a bird’s eye view of the board before we judge. Wisdom lies in seeing the beautiful symmetry on the board, whichever way you played. Thus we see that putting together jigsaw puzzles is an activity that goes on in our life in gross and subtle ways and on varied plains. Children, who can sense how a piece offers itself to join the part we already have at hand, do it easily. People who have the right idea about the responses from life for the action at their hands also find it easy.


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