Puzzled

I almost shared this story as an illustration in this week’s sermon. I ended up deciding against it, but I thought it was worth sharing anyway.

It was a Tuesday night and I was spending the evening with my oldest son Hunter. Every other week on Tuesday nights it was time for Boy Scouts. He was a beginner in Scouting, a Tiger Cub to be exact. The pack met at a local community building in the small town where we used to live. There was not a lot of room for the 30-40 kids who tried to attend all the meetings there. During the first few months the weather was nice and we did all kinds of activities and games outside. No space problems for us at all. Later the weather in Iowa was in the teens for temperature and we had a great deal of wind. So all of us crammed into this little building trying to learn about life and country in a fairly unsuitable environment for learning.
Well on this one particular evening our Den Mother, or maybe she is called a pack leader, had some easy ideas for lessons. It was a simple task and the boys could learn without hurting themselves or others. The task was to complete a puzzle for the Tiger cubs – a group of about 8 boys. Actually there were two puzzles for them and the boys were to do one and then move over to the other one. The first was a map of the United States with only 100 pieces to put together. The second puzzle (where I was stationed) was a map of the entire world and had 300 pieces to assemble.
The United States map was completed rather quickly and the boys were now in the process of helping me do the world map. The map was hard to put together. Time went by and the boys were getting bored as we worked and worked on this puzzle. Finally the leader told the boys they were going to build bird feeders out of all natural materials. Most of the youngsters ran to do the new project.
While they were leaving the scene, a couple of other parents moved in to help out with the puzzle I was working on. There in the middle of this small room of screaming boys, three adults worked to complete this task. Maybe it was out of pride I was building it, but I told people it was to teach the boys a lesson of “finish what you start.” After about 30 minutes more of work we reached the end of the puzzle. There was now a new difficulty, we were 5 pieces short and had two extras of the same pieces. The puzzle would not be able to be completed, even after all our work.
We notified the leader of our situation and asked for her input. I was astonished when she said, “That doesn’t surprise me.” Then she laughed and walked away. You mean to tell me I spent almost an hour on a project I couldn’t complete? Do you know what this will do to me?
I once read an article that stated, psychologists have identified a phenomenon related to memory known as the “Zeigarnik effect.” It seems the brain remembers incomplete tasks and failures far longer than successes or completed activity. When a project is completed successfully, the brain seems to compartmentalized the memory and no longer gives it priority, causing it to fade away. But failures have no closure – they remain active. The brain continues to process the memory as if trying to fix it and finally move it to “inactive status.”
Now for the rest of my life I am going to be looking for the pieces to that puzzle so that I can finish it. Woe to me!! Oh well, people have always said things about me, I guess now they can also say I am a few pieces short of a full puzzle!

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