Saturday, 7 June 2014

Puzzle vs Mystery

What is the difference between a puzzle and a mystery, and why is it important to understand that difference, and furthermore, how do we know if the current problem facing us is one or the other?

A puzzle is easy to identify. Every new piece provides a clearer picture and we begin to understand more about what it is we are looking at. Puzzles can be identified by known boundaries, historical precedence, the application of the laws of nature, physics and science in general, and common sense.

A mystery is not so easily inferred.

Every time a new piece of information is added to a mystery, confusion increases and people's perceptions are changed. Locating a missing child is a puzzle. Every new piece of evidence narrows down the focus area of the search. Every marriage is a mystery. Just because a certain behaviour or specific choice works in one marriage does not mean it will work in another. It may not even work in the same marriage the same way next time.

In fact, one of the definitions of a mystery might be that every new perception of a mystery may provide further insight but also supports all previous perceptions. 

Observation alone is enough to solve a puzzle, but it is never enough to understand a mystery. The solution to a puzzle is always made easier by increasing information. Research is a good activity to solve a puzzle; it is almost fruitless when trying to come to grips with a mystery.

In my experience, not too many of us are very good at solving mysteries. In fact, most of us don't recognise if the problem facing us is a mystery. We just assume it's a puzzle and use our normal problem-solving methods to find an answer.

So, how do you solve a mystery? 

Once again, in my experience, the solution to a mystery is usually unexpected. It either comes from an unanticipated source or person, or the solution offered is so far outside my realm of thinking I was never going to arrive at the conclusion no matter how long I spent in cogitation or meditation. It also usually means I need to drop some preconceived idea or open myself to courses of thought or action that I have traditionally not employed.

Mysteries are good for us because they force us to consider a world that we would not otherwise include in our perception of how things should be.

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