Is Life a Puzzle?


When I was born they opened the box, and the pieces of my life came tumbling out. The weird thing was not all the pieces were there, and some of the pieces were already connected, just like when a brand new jigsaw puzzle box is opened. As a newborn and growing baby I had a lot of help assembling the pieces. Life continued to move along, and I began to assemble more and more of the pieces together myself. To my surprise I found that some of the pieces were missing, and some of the pieces that used to fit no longer did. So, I sent away for an update (school and what not). What a strange puzzle this is—it comes with updates. I continue to link the pieces of this puzzle together, and I wonder if my puzzle will ever be finished. I have a hunch that it never will1.  It’s Stevie’s unfinished masterpiece.

Is life a puzzle than? If taken as a metaphor it certainly is in many ways. There are plenty of other types of puzzles that might be explored. Think of the ordering puzzle. You are given 15 numbers to put in order in a 4 x 4 grid. In life I find that order is not always given, so I have to put it in order myself. Often in life things do not start to fall together until enough of the puzzle is completed, just like a connect the dots puzzle. Crossword puzzles can also be used. The the individual answers to the clues give the acts in life, and the answers have to, or should, cohere together as they crisscross. CrosswordPuz

I had adapted this last metaphor from a work by Susan Haack–Evidence and Inquiry: A Pragmatist Reconstruction of Epistemology, 2nd Expanded Edition, 2009. She use the crossword analogy to show that neither foundationalism or coherentism in epistemology provide the best approach to explain how we can say that we know something. The individual clues are the evidence (the core of foundationalism), while the grid shows the coherence of the clues.

I started exploring metaphors in relation to life after reading Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. In this book they showed that metaphors are ubiquitous. They even believe that metaphors are central to our thinking processes, which they backup with plenty of examples. I am not fully convinced of their theory. I lean toward the idea that we do not think in language; language is just the medium for communicating our thoughts to others and to ourselves. George Lakoff has also written on metaphors used in politics, morals, mathematics, and philosophy. Regardless of the truth of their metaphor and thought theory, I certainly find metaphors have help to extract rich veins within my life, as I continue to piece it together.

I have been exploring other metaphors of life. One is probably going to be the subject of a future blog–”Is Life a Financial Transaction?” Some of these metaphors are invest, branch out, a venture (“nothing ventured, nothing gained’), and time is money. Although, the last belongs more appropriately to time metaphors.

One of frequent set puzzles of my life is cooking. I need to assemble my tools, gather my ingredients, and review the directions. I have to figure out how the interaction of these components work together, then actually concoct my edible puzzle. Everything must fit into the ultimate solution–a cake. How tasty. Not unlike orthodox Jews, who sweeten the Hebrew letters with honey to attract the child to the “holy” language. The child in fact is usually a boy. How sexist. Anyway, have you eaten your puzzle today?

I hope this might have peaked your interest in using metaphors as a form of exploration. Let me know if you come across or develop some interesting metaphors yourself.

1 This is not because I believe in an afterlife, which I don’t.


7 thoughts on “Is Life a Puzzle?

  1. Hi Steven!

    Something to consider for the future blog post you mention above: Rather than a financial transaction, life is a series of financial transactions. Or maybe life is a bank, and it’s comprised of the various branches we visit and the several departments in which we conduct our transactions, the deposits and withdrawals we make, the loans we take out and retirement accounts we establish.

    One of the most thought-provoking things you write above is that you suspect we don’t think in language. I think that, at least some of the time, we do think in language; I am certainly aware of hearing my own voice often when I’m thinking, though not always. I hope one of your future blogs will express exactly how you think we do think! I haven’t yet read Metaphors We Live By (but now intend to, someday), so I don’t know how they defend their statement about metaphors being essential to our thinking processes, but I have to agree with them there. At its most basic level, metaphor is simply comparison, and how we think about things, how we define things, is by comparing them to what they are and what they are not; hence, metaphor.

    Anyway, I enjoyed your post. I hope very soon to be able to post one of my own!

    Take care, be well, and happy writing,



    1. Denny, thank you for your comments.

      I have to say that life is a financial transaction is a core metaphor, of which the others play on. All your suggestions were good, but I feel that they fit with the core metaphor here. I do like the idea that life has different departments. You also remind me of the connected saving metaphor – I’m saving my energy, I’m saving my self for marriage (whoops, too late), or I’m saving my resources.

      As far as explaining how we actually think, I don’t have any firm ideas as yet, but I have only been thinking about this for a year or so. It certainly is controlled by the brain at the very least. I do have more ideas of why we don’t think in language. One recent addition to the list is that the language centers in the brain are not in the same area were critical thinking is suppose to take place. The two main things that started me thinking about it were that when I speak I rarely think about the words I use, they just flow, and the observation that Baxter certainly looks like he’s thinking at times, and he certainly doesn’t have any language capabilities.

      I will blog about these things in the future. There will probably be more than one blog, since there are plenty of questions about thought to be asked and ruminated on.

      Thanks again for your comment, I do appreciate them.

      “Write on Garth.” “Write on Wayne.”


  2. I looked in the mirror this morning and saw the “Face of Time”. As far as metaphors go, we learn a lot from comparison.
    You talked about “Stevie’s unfinished masterpiece”. In my novel, “The Becoming”, I talk about how we are NOT a finished product until our death.
    I enjoyed the post and I’m going to check out “Metaphors We Live By”.
    Your Buddy, Dave aka Writer Dave


    1. Thank you for your comment Dave.

      I think of life as never being complete even after death, hence the metaphor-an unfinished masterpiece. While my life is over when I die, it is not completed. I think that unless you have manage to accomplish all you wish to do in life-our projects-your life cannot really be complete. And who among us has managed to do that. Because there is almost always one more sentence left to write, one more recipe yet to make, or one more “I love you” left to say, life can never be complete.


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