Coming into view


I like doing jigsaw puzzles. They are something that every semi-retired person should do between queuing at Boots for a prescription and writing angry letters to the council. I’ve written about doing them several times before and it is a subject I keep coming back to, partly because they fascinate me and partly because they are an insight into the way our mind works.

In the last piece I wrote about them, I explained that I had taken a different approach, one suggested by my wife. Rather than start with the edge pieces, I would start with part of the picture and work outwards. This time I am doing a puzzle I have done before and have started with the sky, which is the hardest part of all. I’ve sorted the pieces into two piles, one with all blue sky bits and one with sky and other pieces, such as buildings etc. 

It’s certainly proving to be a hard way to do the jigsaw but it’s challenging and certainly entertaining. The mixed pieces pile is almost completely done and I’ll start on the pure sky pieces next.

I lay them out and stare at them, looking for patterns. At first nothing leaps out except the obvious but after a while I start to notice subtleties in the differing colours, textures and shapes. I then get on a run putting a dozen bits together until I lose the thread again. It’s a bit like one of those magic eye pictures where you have to move it in and out of your focal length until it suddenly appears.

Thinking about this it reflects the way that our brains work. The majority of what we see, perhaps 60-70% doesn’t come through our eyes but rather is built from the stored impression of our environment in our brain. It takes a while for this to be refreshed and so it takes time to see patterns that hadn’t existed in your eye before.

Our brains are very good at recognising patterns, especially faces, but sometimes we have to clear out our existing impressions before new things appear. 

Not everything in front of our eyes is visible to us.

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