I believe in Sudoku puzzles. While aboard Lufthansa Flight #192, anxiously awaiting our arrival at JFK airport after two weeks overseas, I flipped through my book of black belt, fiendishly difficult Sudokus and noted the cities listed on the bottom of each page signifying the location at which I completed each puzzle. From Athens to Frankfurt, St. Louis to Chicago, these puzzles served as a testament to my worldly travels. But more so than a mere reminder of my journey through Europe, Sudoku puzzles represent a fundamental component to my outlook on life.
As opposed to crossword puzzles, when a successful completion may very well depend on knowing that “Bumpo” is the last name of The Leatherstocking Tales protagonist or that a “quince” is a small fruit, Sudoku puzzles rely solely on knowing the numbers 1-9. The rest is simple patience and time. Ideally, one should never have to guess in order to conquer a Sudoku puzzle, regardless of its level of difficulty. There always exists a logical solution. Truly, like nature, Sudokus are things of beauty: perfectly crafted systems of unifying patterns and intricate relationships. Each individual number bears significance in its own right. Indeed there is no better feeling than filling in that last square only three hours after you convinced yourself that such a task was impossible.
I remember flying over the Atlantic Ocean working on a puzzle–number 176– and after what seemed like days slaving over the same 9×9 square, I gave up trying to crack the code. I had one particular square narrowed down to three possible numbers. So, without any logical rationality, I guessed on which number was correct. I was wrong. Quickly, with two possible numbers remaining, I inserted the number two in the vacant square and within minutes, the puzzle was solved. Sure, I could have chalked this up as an example of how trial and error and can solve any problem. But something about looking at the completed page, made me think I cheated the system. After all, I guessed on a problem for which there always exists a logical, rational solution.
I refuse to believe that we have no control over our lives. Undeniably, circumstances often arise which exceed our capacity for control, yet, to entirely negate whatever sense of agency nature has granted me would be to suggest that I am constantly at the mercy of the world around me. Rather, I believe I have an influence in dictating the course of my life. With patience and time and a little bit of logic, I believe I can solve any problem life lays on the page. Of course, it helps to know the numbers 1-9, but once you do, I believe you can count on crafting your own success. I believe (it’s logical to believe) that through Sudoku puzzles, I may better understand the degree to which my personal agency guides me through the black belt book of life.
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