### The Puzzle

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Imagine that you've been given a puzzle. Before you on a table is a pile of 500 unassembled pieces, and you've been given the task of putting these pieces together. There's just one catch. You don't have the box the puzzle came in - no picture - so you don't know beforehand what it is you are trying to piece together.

What you do have is a crowd of helpers, among which are your parents, a few friends, some priests and politicians, several other people you don't even recognize, and a couple of scientists. Most of these people seem anxious to tell you how to "correctly" assemble your puzzle. Although a bit pushy, it's clear they just want to help.

Before you even have a chance to get started, several of these "helpers" inform you that the pieces, when assembled correctly, will result in a picture of a tree. Without asking, they reach into your pile of puzzle pieces, grab a dozen or so light-colored ones, and begin forcing them together into what they want you to believe is a tree.

You look at this "tree" and confess to those around you that you don't quite see the tree they are talking about. "Oh, you're too close to the pieces," they say. "Stand back about 15 or 20 feet and squint your eyes. Then you'll see the tree." You try this, but still you aren't convinced that what you're looking at is a tree.

So the people start showing you their own puzzles. All trees, they claim. Interestingly, each person's tree looks different from the others. Even more interesting is the fact that about half of these people haven't even tried to construct a tree for themselves, yet they still seem convinced that the pieces will make a tree. They base their convictions on the efforts and testimonies of the others.

Some in the crowd have taken scissors and cut off parts of the pieces in order to make them "fit". You find that particularly strange. Something else you find strange is that out of 500 pieces, only a handful, a couple of dozen at most, are used in the construction of these trees. When you ask why so many of the pieces go unused you are assured by the others that all the pieces - many of which do not appear to have any tree in them at all - are indeed part of the tree, but how they assemble is a mystery. Furthermore, you are cautioned that it's not polite to ask questions about the other pieces because it tends to confuse children who are just starting on their own puzzles.

You notice that there's a lot of arguing amongst the tree people. They argue over the shape of the tree, how many pieces it requires, the color of the pieces, who has the authority to assemble the trees. One guy said his tree was the only "correct" tree and that all the other trees were false trees and as such should be destroyed. This attitude created quite a bit of tension and in some cases even led to blows!

One of these tree zealots went totally psychotic and started killing people whose trees were different than his own, after which he burned his victims' puzzles with fire. Another guy came in with dynamite strapped to his body and blew himself up, along with about a dozen or so other people whose trees he didn't even bother to look at. Before he detonated himself he shouted, "My Tree!" Boom!!

Amidst all this commotion you notice a man and a woman sitting quietly together, working on their puzzles. These are the scientists. To your astonishment you notice that they have assembled roughly half of the total pieces - not just a few dozen, but a good two hundred or more, at least. What's more, all of the assembled pieces fit tight and clean - no gaps, no forcing, no cuts. All perfect fits. You marvel at how one piece is shaped in such a way as to perfectly accept the adjoining piece. You notice too that when the pieces are assembled in this way that the colors and patterns of one piece continue on to the next. Amazing!

Most astonishing of all, however, is the fact that the picture emerging from their puzzle isn't even a tree! Instead it's a picture of a beautiful snow-capped mountain with a sparkling lake in the foreground and a rich blue sky in the background. And lo and behold there were even trees in the picture. But these were real trees - ones you didn't have to stand back 20 feet and squint to see. In fact, if you got close enough you could see individual leaves and bark and even a bird or two resting on the tree's branches. The real and sharp beauty of the scene nearly takes your breath away.

You turn to the scientists and say, "This is truly remarkable. How did you do this?" They explain that they have developed a method for assembling pieces that demands that each piece fit perfectly with the next. If any part of a piece fails to fit with an adjoining piece, then another piece must be tried in its place. No forcing, no half-fits, and no cutting corners. They tell you that by remaining faithful to this system they can double check their work by noticing whether or not the colors and designs on one piece continue into the colors and designs of the adjoining piece. Put enough pieces together in this manner and before long some very interesting pictures begin to emerge.

The scientists tell you that when they started this project they had no idea what would come of it all. "We weren't trying to construct a tree, a mountain, or anything. We just remained true to our methodology. And are we ever glad we did! Otherwise we would have totally missed out on the scene you see before you now. We just count ourselves lucky that the scene is as beautiful as it is."

You notice several pieces off to one side that have yet to be assembled. "What about these pieces over here?" you ask. The man replies, "We aren't sure where they go just yet, although these brown ones over here look like they might be part of a cabin or small house. We can't say for sure just yet, but we're working on it."

During the course of your conversation you notice that one of the unassembled brown pieces has some green in it, like bushes. You notice a green bushy area on the assembled section. One of the pieces in this section appears to have a shape exactly opposite the one with the brown in it. You chime in, "Excuse me, but do you think this piece here might go with that piece there?"

The woman scientist takes a closer look, smiles and says, "You might be on to something. Why don't you try it and see if it fits." So you pick up the piece - a bit nervous - compare the two pieces at closer range and then gently press the piece into place. A perfect fit! "Hey, good job!" the man says. "Thanks!" adds the woman.

Elated, you reply, "Wow, that's really cool! Thanks for letting me do that!" "No, thank you." replies the woman, adding "You know, the greatest thing about this little system is that when one person benefits, we all benefit."

-- Debra (thisis@it.com), July 20, 2000

Ja, diss is how ve fabrickated dat big bomm go boom.

-- (DrStrangelove@gubmint.lab), July 20, 2000.

Chills, Debra. That's what reading this piece has given me - chills. Thank you for posting it. BTW, is this an original composition?

-- Positive Vibration (howe9@shentel.net), July 20, 2000.

Exquisite. Thank you, Debra.

-- David L (bumpkin@dnet.net), July 20, 2000.

Debra, that was beautiful. I did some truly stupid buying about Y2K ( do you need 50 candles?) I read all the testimony. Felt I was stuck between a rock and a hard place, kept remembering Moses and the laughter he endured. And I remembered the other Biblical person who was ordered to slay his own son, to be reprieved at the last moment. Looking back now, with a nervous glance, I try to analyze and justify my response. World keeps humming, but some of the prophesy did come true. My ATM card did not work after roll over, and subsequent cards also do not work. The ATM problem is random and keeps happening to me. Yes I do have money, but cards keeps rejecting. I take my frustration, and multiply it by all the ATM card holders who might suffer same. Let me stack up ten more cans of beans, before this gets out of hand.

-- No Wonder (Ist@ockedfood.com), July 20, 2000.

Debra-

Nice analogy.

Wondering-

Are you somehow inadvertantly demagnetizing your ATM cards? I have a coworker who had this same problem with her ATM and credit cards until she discovered that our office building access card is magnetized.

-- Tarzan the Ape Man (tarzan@swingingthroughthejunglewithouta.net), July 20, 2000.