Monday, July 12, 2010

The hardest puzzle in the world

Life is great. This week I went to a family reunion, went camping, spent days filling out job applications, and drove for hours and hours. Someday I need to invent a good driving autopilot. But life is still great.

After Church yesterday, we spent some time with extended family. My uncle had a tower / cube puzzle that was labeled “the hardest puzzle in the world.” Some people, he explained, had proven puzzles like it to be physically impossible, and only a few people had ever solved this one. That was enough to turn on my one-track mind. There’s nothing like a challenge.

The game was called “36 cube” and held an array of 36 squares – 6 by 6. Each spot on the array was a tower base that held a tower of a certain height. In each row and column, there was a base that held a tower that was one square tall, two squares tall, all the way to six. And there were six different colors of towers. The goal was to line up the towers on their respective bases so that every row and column had exactly one tower of each color – sort of like a massive Sudoku puzzle.

I threw myself into solving the problem by moving forward as if it were a Sudoku. After about 15 minutes, I had placed 34 of 36 towers, but the last two towers wouldn’t fit. It wasn’t exactly like a Sudoku. So I looked at the puzzle like a Rubix cube – trying to see if I could manipulate the different towers to get the last two to fit. But for every tower I moved, I had to find new spots for two more… then four… then eight. It definitely wasn’t like a Rubix cube. It didn’t look like any puzzle I had solved before.

I realized that I was at a point where I couldn’t go any further, so I paused to reflect on the things I had learned and tried to determine what I needed to understand in order to solve the puzzle. It was somewhat painful when I decided that I needed to start over, but I really wanted to solve it. So I dumped off all the pieces and simply looked at the board itself.

My uncle had mentioned that some of the towers were different from the others – one had the ability to be placed on multiple sizes of bases. That was interesting, but how could it affect the outcome of the puzzle? And how would one tower affect the entire outcome? I found the tower and placed it on a base, then realized that the puzzle would still be impossible. I had just used a 5-height tower on a 6-height base; I didn’t have enough 6-height bases left. Unless, I thought, there was a piece that would reverse the trick somewhere else. It took me ten minutes to find the other part of the trick. But, with those two pieces set, I played the game like a 6x6 Sudoku puzzle and finished a few minutes later. Puzzle solved.

“The hardest puzzle in the world” is actually pretty similar to the challenges we face in life. Life presents us with massive, complex, overwhelming problems. People around us may claim that it’s impossible to solve the issues we face – that it’s not worth trying to keep the commandments, raise a happy family, or change the world – and, in reality, they are partially correct. By ourselves, it is totally and completely impossible to be truly successful in life, just as it’s impossible to solve a 6x6 latin square. We can try and try, and ultimately there is no simple solution. But when the board is rigged in our favor, then the game changes… and it becomes possible. Possible to have a happy family, overcome our trials and temptations, and to be a force for good in the world. It just takes time to figure out how to solve the seemingly impossible problems… and a willingness to, when necessary, scrap everything and start over.

I’ve got two issues I’m currently trying to solve – finding a job (the same as last week), and determining the next step with a book I’m trying to publish. As far as the first one, thanks for the advice and leads so far. I’m including a copy of my resume attached to this week’s letter. With my book, it’s based on the letters I’ve written over the last few years – Watching Cookies in the Oven. I’m not sure if I just need to find the right publisher, or if it needs to be re-written in some way, or if I need to wait, or if I need to self-publish it… This week I’m planning to talk with some bookstore owners and maybe contact my publisher to see if they can give me some advice. I’ll send a copy of my current manuscript next week; in the meantime, I’d love your thoughts or advice.

Life is truly amazing. You look at it and it seems overwhelming and impossible. And then the Lord, through family, friends, or divine revelation, shows you how you can make the impossible possible. I know that God lives and that He loves us. He gave us this life so that we could solve the hardest things – to find the answers to the impossible questions. My invitation for you this week is to do the seemingly impossible. Look at your life, your work, or your family and identify something that you want to change. Something that seems impossible, challenging, or complex. Turn to the Lord and ask for help… and I know that He will bless you and help you move forward on the path to the best solution. Will it take work? Definitely. Will it be hard? Of course. Might it take a long, long time to figure out? Yes. But it is possible. Then go share the solution with the world. Go out and be missionaries!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Custom Search