My teenage daughter, Molly, loves puzzles. But I don’t care about them. They require patience, something that I lack.
And patience for what? Recreate an image made up of parts that are much more non-essential than essential. More elements of Mona Lisa’s past, for example, than her enigmatic smile.
But it’s more than puzzles. For decades, this is how I approached the people in my life without noticing anything particularly interesting about them. I was impatient with the substantive parts of life.
Winston Churchill had accomplished a great deal when he observed “we are all worms, but I believe I am a glowworm”. My bright self-esteem was considerably less justified. Then one day I had a radical thought as I watched Molly work on a puzzle.
Maybe it was because she was working on an image of the 13th green surrounded by azaleas at Augusta National Golf Club, a beauty I could easily appreciate. This is my epiphany: life is a puzzle, and I look at its pieces completely askew.
Not just any puzzle either. The one our creator loved so much that he entered it incarnate, briefly surrendering himself to the finitude of his own creation in order to redeem it. He who alone sees the whole adores it so much.
Such love suggests that there are no indispensable people – its puzzle pieces – in its creation. A background piece is no less essential than one that complements Mona Lisa’s smile, as a gap anywhere destroys integrity everywhere.
That I can’t see the essential nature of each doesn’t make it any less. This is my challenge: to seek out the unique beauty in others, to believe that it is there when it is most difficult to discern and to humbly accept how others will not always see it in me. Simple pieces, we lack perspective to see that we are all essential to the whole.
I still don’t like puzzles, but this unenlightened glowworm is grateful for the change in perspective they’ve given me.
Mr. Kerrigan is a lawyer in Charlotte, North Carolina
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Published in the print edition of July 15, 2021.