9…Busywork

Unsolved puzzles are ripe with meaning…you just have to decode it first. The decoding is a kind of busywork under the guise of logical sleuthing. Admittedly, word puzzles are a not-so-secret favourite pastime of mine. The puzzles that contain aphoristic words of wisdom and famous (or not-so-famous) quotations by famous (or not-so-famous) authors, or otherwise notable quotable figures, are by far the most enticing in that they are the Kinder-Surprise of pencil puzzles:  You figure out where all the letters and words go, maybe only to find yourself still scratching your head trying to figure out what to do with it…what does it all mean? Sometimes you simply can’t be sure, and sometimes you even feel a little ripped off (“I spent all that time assembling these tedious little parts, for this?“), and then, other times, the ingenuity of the thing simply makes you stop and wonder.

I find it worth noting that pencil puzzle magazines seem to be marketed at women who work at home (a/k/a “housewives”) and people between flights at the airport…in either case offering the diligent puzzle-solver a chance to pass away those otherwise “unproductive” hours spent waiting for laundry to dry, kids to wake from naps, flights to arrive, etc etc…to keep their minds “active” if you will. If stay-at-home moms, listless travellers, and any other type of person who might find themselves attracted to pencil puzzles (me, for instance) truly find their minds otherwise languishing, I don’t know that mentally taxing soduku puzzles and crosswords are necessarily the solution, though of course they do themselves contain solutions, but I digress…

Stopping and wondering is just one way we can inhabit the waiting games we play (those Kinder-Surprise exercises that can at times be few and far between or hopefully numerous enough to overlap, sometimes fitting between two and sometimes managing to subsume all) in the cracks of our daily responsibilities, that assemblage of purposeful plans and meaningful meetings in your daily agenda or smart phone that gets you through the day and follows you into the night. Busywork interrupts the “real” work that chases us (or do we chase it?). Stopping and wondering is one way to escape busywork, and somehow (perhaps it is our undying love of irony) we tend to rely on the most tedious and meaningless games and toys to provide for us the opening to make that escape.

Busywork, housework, homework, officework, yardwork, artwork…the elegant assembly of tedious little parts to form a composition that makes sense is perhaps what all work is. And by make sense, I guess I mean make useful. And when we do work that feels useless, or when we are out-of-work and feel ourselves to be useless, then no amount of busywork can quell the rising tide of frustration.

Puzzles can be solved in two entirely different modes: anti-socially and socially. Either one furrows their brow and sorts the thing out in quiet concentration, or one puts their head together with other folk and collectively chooses an appropriate solution. We at Wayward tend to prefer the latter.

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