By way of efficiency comes decline

Jigsaw pieces in a box

There are a few more jigsaws on tables around the world than might normally be the case. Some people are rediscovering why they gave them up in the first place.

Some people might be realising there’s more to this than meets the eye.

Visual acuity is a term for clarity of vision. For clarity, we need healthy eyes, but we also need a suitably sensitive and interpretative faculty in our brain.

So what’s that got to do with jigsaws?

When we hand a child their first jigsaw puzzle, we hope to teach them some problem solving techniques; that’s aside from just wanting them to be occupied for as long as possible. We suggest they sort the pieces by particular categories. We suggest they start by building the frame. And we watch while their skills develop.

As we age, our aim instead is to exercise our faculties as a means of staving off impending decline. Sometimes, the habits we develop as children are best set to one side.

If I efficiently sort the puzzle pieces, I’m wasting an opportunity to exercise those parts of my eyes and brain that are necessary for clarity of sight. There’s no impending deadline; no need to be efficient. In fact, the longer one puzzle lasts the cheaper the whole hobby becomes.

I’ve started a new game. The pieces are poured from their plastic home into the box. I visually “pour” over them, picking out each edge piece. I then “paw” at them, churning the surface, bringing unseen pieces to the top … and then again picking out each edge piece I see. And repeat.

How many edge pieces can you see in this photo?

And how many other supposed efficiencies are contributing to our mental decline?


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