I love weird stuff. And every so often, it’s so weird that I have to spend a morning on it here.
That’s how we’ve ended up with columns on the infamous “Boaty McBoatface.” Or on the man who solved nearly 7,000 Rubik’s Cubes in 24 hours. Or on the friend who loves to wrap a “hippity hop” ball in lights and lower it from a rope to celebrate the New Year. You know, the stuff that keeps the world interesting.
Well, we’re back in Rubik’s territory today. Not quantity this time, but quality. I’d say it’s a real eye-opener, but that would be singularly inappropriate in this case.
You see, today’s weird and wonderful accomplishment comes from an Australian teen who set a new Rubik’s Cube speed record … for solving it while blindfolded.
In 12.1 seconds to be exact.
Now I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t do a 12-second solve with my eyes open. Even if you let me “solve” it by peeling off all the colored stickers and putting them back on again so they matched.
To be fair, Charlie Eggins’ first reaction, according to Guinness, was also “I still can’t believe it!” And that’s after he’d done about 25,000 practice solves.
But maybe I shouldn’t be so startled. Maybe none of us should be.
After all, we try to do the same thing every day. Only we’re taking on something harder than Rubik’s Cubes.
We’re trying to solve people.
We like to think we know our family, our friends, the folks around us. Even with complete strangers, we’re usually pretty comfortable in our rules of thumb … after all, they can’t be that different from us, can they? Even one of our most fundamental rules – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – takes as its first assumption that others want what you want.
That’s not a bad starting point. It’s certainly better than seeing the “other” as a danger to be feared. But every so often – more than every so often – we run into the limits of it and have to reassess.
It could be minor, like discovering their indifference to a movie “everyone” knows. (“What do you mean, you’ve never seen Star Wars?”) It could be something more fundamental in their beliefs, their upbringing, the way they see the world.
Big or small, earthshaking or trivial, we suddenly find something that brings us up short and makes us think instead of react. In that moment, we get new eyes: toward the other person, the world, even ourselves.
Like a number of literature geeks, I’ve been reading Emily Wilson’s new translation of “The Iliad” lately. (I’d offer you my copy but, well, beware of geeks bearing gifts.) There’s a moment early on where the fierce warrior Diomedes is briefly given the ability to recognize the gods on the battlefield , even when they’re invisible or shape-shifted. Able to see who’s receiving special help, he fights more effectively than ever, even wounding Aphrodite when she tries to protect one of her favored warriors.
Clear vision can produce amazing results.
But like Eggins, we won’t solve anything if we’re not willing to come to grips with it.
We may be working in the dark. But if we’re at least trying to understand, we’ve taken the first step. (A step too few take, judging by the headlines.) We may get it wrong. We may fumble and stumble and misunderstand. But if we make the effort, and recognize the attempts of others to do the same with us, we’ll get there eventually … even if it isn’t in 12.1 seconds.
And that’s pretty weird and wonderful in itself.