It is often that we are often faced with puzzles, riddles and such in our daily life. Our response, or lack of response, to these conundrums often influence future outcomes. Puzzles and riddles can be great teaching tools, as they often inspire us to explore beyond our preset mind-maps and tool-boxes. One example of such a puzzle is the “draw an unbroken set of lines through the nine dots of a three by three square without lifting the pen from the paper”. Go ahead. Try it. I will wait.
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Even if you already knew the answer beforehand, the mere act of refocusing your brain on the puzzle fires up some neurons, makes you feel more awake, doesn’t it? So, now that you are awake, let us switch brain gears and consider – what is a metaphor? Simply put, it is a ‘figure of speech’ that connects two unrelated objects or actions. An example of a metaphor could be – the lines at the edges of her aging eyes looked like crow’s feet. Here is an exercise for you. Can you think about a metaphor for life which relates to the transition of winter into spring, or that of summer into autumn? (share in the comments below – thank you!)
Now that we have talked a bit about puzzles and metaphors – here is a related question. What is the connection between the two? What do puzzles and metaphors give to each other? One way to answer this is to invoke the #Zen tradition. In #Zen, questions are asked by the masters of the students in the form of a koan – “a paradoxical anecdote or riddle, to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment”. One example of a #koan, meant purely for reflection and consideration is – “show me your face, before your parents were born”. The mystic Osho had suggested – “a koan is not meant to solved – it is meant to be dissolved”. So, maybe we should put our thinking aside and dissolve our way through the koan…
In her book, “Ten Windows – How Great Poems Transform The World”, Jane Hirshfield points out that writers and poets make frequent use of metaphors and puzzles, of mystery and intrigue, of the partly hidden and incongruous. She suggests that “perhaps, for something to be found, all that matters is that there be searching… certainly that is the way of writing in poems”. Is that why the full moon demurely veils herself among the clouds or tree branches as she tiptoes across my bedroom window in the early morning hours, invariably nudging me awake? I have danced this dance with her for years, and I learn some new steps every time…
Mystics have danced the dance of “hiding in plain sight” for centuries. Mystics have inspired us through poetry, prose, music, dance, painting and more. Mystics have challenged us to go beyond where logic and reason end, beyond the end of the beginning, to arrive at where we have always belonged. Yes, spirituality and science are deeply interwoven, but the threads of their weave are often those of the intangible. Is it not our good fortune that our awareness of the mystical unseen, the unspoken, the unfelt, the unwalked, the unexperienced adds spark and zest to our life and living?
The threads of the puzzle of life are many, and I may have unraveled a few of them for you to consider here. In closing, do permit me to ask of you – what is the greatest puzzle you have ever encountered in your life so far? What was hidden in its answer? Can you describe the answer in an answer or a piece of poetry? Or are you still searching for the answer? Do share in the comments below, and, if you are awake and on twitter in the 9amET/2pmUTC hour on Sunday, January 31st, come join us on twitter in #SpiritChat. I may ask you to share your favorite puzzle or metaphor, or both. Who knows? We may even reflect on the riddle of the Sphinx and what lies hidden in plain sight…
Sphinx Artwork by A.A.