The Corner

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Santa Calls


My puzzle has arrived! Oh boy—that Christmas feeling! No, of course I won’t open it till Christmas Day.

Here is a reader who TOTALLY MISSES THE POINT of jigsaw puzzles:

that George Washington puzzle looks like a nightmare with all that gray sky (nearly half of the image). You, sir, are a masochist.

To the contrary, Sir. A masochist seeks pain: I seek pleasure—in this case, no mere gross sensual pleasure, but the spiritual pleasure of total absorption in a finite task. From a great classic essay on this topic:

With perimeter, skyline, and most of the sky done, twenty-four full hours have passed. Somewhere in there were meals and phone calls, sleep and ablutions. These events, however, were taking place on a different plane of existence, remote and inconsequential. Flow has well and truly set in. I feel like someone on a diving bell at the bottom of the ocean, the outside world making itself known only by occasional muffled tappings and thumpings on the wall of the bell. For goodness sake come to the table, your dinner’s getting cold, I hear some woman’s voice call from a far place. Be right there. Just got to place this one piece…

Everyone should seek flow in his own way. For some devout few, the disciplines of religious worship take you there. I never got to flow that way, though I honestly tried. Coding (i.e. writing computer programs) used to do it for me sometimes, and working on math problems occasionally. Now it’s just jigsaw puzzles—one a year until I die … which I wouldn’t mind a bit happening to me while doing a jigsaw puzzle, as was the case with Calvin Coolidge. (A Ron Paul voter if ever there was one.)

Cal’s last puzzle was also, by the way, a picture of George Washington. Uh-oh.