For
a while my wife was hooked on Sudoku. Eventually my curiosity
got the better of me and I took a look to see what she was
doing. For a week or two, I tried my own hand at solving these
puzzles until I found some that were so difficult that I
concluded that to continue to agonize over them was just a
waste of time. Then it occurred to me that finding
freedom, peace, and happiness is sort of like trying to solve a tough Sudoku
puzzle.
If
you don’t know what a Sudoku puzzle is, let me take a moment
to show you. Here’s a sample puzzle that was laid out for
Wikipedia by a fellow named Larry Gilbert :
The
object is to use your cognitive abilities to fill in the blank
squares in such a way that each row of 9 little squares
and each column of 9 little squares contains all the numbers 1
through 9 in no particular order... in addition, you have to
make sure that each of the 9 regions (the
internal blocks of 3x3 squares) also contains all the numbers 1 through 9. When
you've done all that, you've solved the puzzle. For each
puzzle there is only one unique solution. In this case, the
solution to the puzzle is as follows:
Well
what does this have to do with freedom, peace or happiness? First of all
let me remind you that I said that finding these things is sort
of like solving a Sudoku puzzle. Maybe not exactly.
Nevertheless, there are interesting parallels to
consider.
Let me explain:
For
example, if you consider that the overall puzzle represents
the total universe of human existence, let each of the 9
regions (the nine blocks of 3x3 squares) represent sub sets of the whole. Each of
these regions might represent a different country, state,
person, religion, language, ethnic or socioeconomic group,
etc. Now the members of each of these regions have certain
common goals or values that they hold dear and important. Let
us postulate for a moment that our job as sentient and caring
human beings is to figure out how to organize ourselves (our
politics, our economics, and our attitudes) in such a way that
each region is able to fulfill all the
critical elements they need, sufficient for that group to obtain
a respectable level of happiness and success. If we made
it a point to solve world or national problems with this attitude
about winning, (which is to say, winning is like satisfying
all the terms of a Sudoku puzzle) perhaps eventually we’d
have a world that works for everyone, with no one left out and
no more need for war.
What
I like about this model for solving problems is that it gives
us an idea of what it really mean to be responsible: the
fundamental rule of this game is, that this game isn’t over
until everyone gets to win. You don’t win until
everyone wins. Of course you might guess that winning isn’t
necessarily going to be easy.
Maybe it's even more challenging than the toughest
Sudoku puzzle.
Now
in real life there might be more than one solution, but then
again, maybe not. We won’t know until we get there. But each
player needs to be willing to stick it out until every aspect
of the game is satisfied. You can’t just go out and get say,
a 5,
7,9, and 3 for yourself or your region, if that’s what you need, and then
build a wall around your region and not care about all
the other players just because you got all of your 9. That
would be
cheating. Intellectual integrity means you don’t get to
cheat. You have to stay with the problem—i.e., stay in the
game—until the game is finished, which is to say, until everyone
gets to win. So, if you discover that the way you
arranged your numbers makes it impossible for everyone else to
win (even though it works perfectly for you), well
you have to rethink the arrangement… not because anyone will
force you to, but because those are the rules of the
game, and you’re a decent honest person who doesn’t want
to win by cheating. I know it's hard to go to all
that extra trouble of rearranging things just when you thought you'd won, but those are
the rules. In fact, after all this time, we should be
able to conclude that probably, those really are the rules.
Anyway,
I think it's possible for all of us to win. I think we’re all supposed to win. We
all are entitled to our basic rights and freedoms and that
includes whatever it takes for each of us to live with real
dignity. To be a responsible human being means you will never
be wholly free, happy, or at peace until everyone else also has a real
opportunity to be free,
happy, and at peace. We're all — each of us
— essential elements of what might be described as a very big
Sudoku puzzle.
I believe, until we reach this goal, the closest any of us
will get to true happiness will be when we've arrived at being
fully engaged at least in trying to solve this life game of
Sudoku.
Sudoku
is good practice and a good reminder of what it really means
and what it really takes to win in this life. Try a few
puzzles yourself. Then, once you get the hang of it, you
might want to try your skill at playing in the big game.
Now in this regard,
here’s a link to a strategy I’ve been thinking about for a
long time that I believe could move us closer to the goal …
I'm hoping one day to get enough players together to really try it
out in earnest: http://www.gpln.com/udhr.html
Here's
another good example of how
the game should be played: http://sports.espn.go.com/broadband/video/videopage?videoId=3380875
For
an interesting application that my friend Ken Simpson created
using Microsoft Excel, click here.
It allows you to enter your own Sudoku puzzle into the program
and then work on it on your own computer and it even offers hints when
you get stuck.
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