The Theosophical Society in America

Is a Puzzlement

by Betty Bland

Originally printed in the JANUARY- FEBRUARY 2008 issue of Quest magazine. 
Citation: Bland, Betty. "Is a Puzzlement." Quest  96.1 (JANUARY- FEBRUARY 2008): 4-5.

Betty BlandI like puzzles: Sudoku, word jumbles, crosswords (if not too obscure), and picture puzzles. For some reason I particularly enjoy the multicolored patterns of different shapes and sizes in picture puzzles. Pictures with irregular edges or homogenous colors are particularly challenging, but provide great satisfaction as the pieces fit neatly together and progress has been made. The puzzle comes together painstakingly at first, slowly, ever so gradually. But as the pieces come together, the patterns emerge and the pile of missing pieces dwindles, the pace picks up. Finds become easier and easier until the last piece is in place.

The puzzle boxes usually proclaim something like: "750 pieces, all different." Think what confusion would ensue if there were several exactly the same shape. The more pieces exactly alike, the less satisfying the working of the puzzle would become. Each piece has a unique place in the picture, filling the exact grooves and matching with its neighbors. A single piece can be the key to finding other pieces, however, if one piece is missing, the puzzle cannot be completed and is usually discarded as useless.

Each one of us can be likened to a piece in the puzzle of life. We are each unique in shape, size, pattern, and fit. When we are jumbled out in the world, trying to make ourselves fit in where we are ill at ease, there does not seem to be any reasonable pattern to our discordant life. But, one day some bit of magic occurs and we find a neighboring piece—a kindred spirit who, through friendship, can play a part in the process of our spiritual growth. This usually results in several connections so that a cluster may be found.

Now it is true that sometimes, what seems like a good fit really is not, and so the trial and error may continue. But at some point we know we have found the peace of connecting into our spiritual home. Once in a while we may be jarred loose for some reason or other, but in the long run, we know where we belong. Contact with another person (maybe even through the written word) is usually the catalyst that draws us, as social animals, to find our place in relation to others. The saying that no one is an island speaks a truth about humanity. Although essential to the whole, one may feel like an isolated piece on the edge of an irregular shape and out of sorts until the pattern falls into place.

Of course, the analogy goes only so far. Life is fluid and multidimensional. We are constantly changing, as are those around us, but our uniqueness is valuable to the whole. The cluster of our particular patterning —religious, cultural, professional, or personal—is essential for completing the rich fullness of human expression. We are important and our relationships to others are important.

To carry this metaphor a bit further, I will share a story from my childhood. An elderly neighbor had given my mother a little figurine of a child standing beside a baby carriage in a prayerful position. Being a little girl of maybe seven or eight who was particularly fond of dolls and baby carriages, I was always attracted to this little figure, but knew that I was not supposed to touch this fragile treasure. Well, I not only liked dolls, but also tended to get into my share of trouble. So the inevitable happened. I touched; it broke. I felt so bad about it that I gathered together every one of the twenty or so fragments, determined that I would fix it. For the better part of an afternoon, armed with Duco Cement, a newspaper surface, and diligent patience, I stayed out of any additional trouble by painstakingly reconstructing the figure.

Over the years that was one of Mother’s most prized possessions. As it was always positioned in a place of honor, I was gratified to know that I had saved such a valuable piece. It was only years later that I learned it was not of monetary value after all, but that the latticework of yellowed lines of glue that crisscrossed the entire piece represented to my mother a loving daughter who had invested many a penitent hour in order to preserve something deemed important. The traces of glue gave it value beyond words.

The glue that binds us together as fellow travelers in our spiritual journey is the precious gold of the alchemists. Different though we may be, we become more precious as we join together in harmony, bound by mutual respect and love. Step by step, piece by piece, we find our unique place by connecting with and serving others. Madam Blavatsky, in Collected Writings vol. VI, said of the Masters that: "The highest interest of humanity, as a whole, is their special concern, for they have identified themselves with that Universal Soul which runs through Humanity, and he, who would draw their attention, must do so through that Soul which pervades everywhere" (240). She states that our purposes are intricately bound with helping and healing humanity in its deepest heart. If we want to be in tune with the highest purposes for which the Society was founded, then we need to recognize our soul-connections with our brothers and sisters.

If this is true, why do we, who are committed to the spiritual path, often presume an overblown importance of our particular identity that translates to "My way or the highway?" Do we not know that the path requires a healthy dose of loving kindness every step of the way? How can we even imagine that the path is trod by seeking glamour for the self, intellectual pride, or indifference to the plight of others? As the King said to Anna in The King and I, "Is a puzzlement."

Our thoughts and actions this day can be the glue that begins to put a shattered figure like Humpty Dumpty back together again, through active involvement in appreciating and resolving differences among our brothers and sisters.