♫ Do you know what it’s all about? Are you brave enough to figure out? Know that you could set your world on fire, if you’re strong enough to leave your doubts? ♫
– Walking On Air, Kerli
There’s a game I like to play on my Kindle called “The Secret Society – Hidden Mystery.” Weird name, I know. But I like it.
It’s essentially full of all different kinds of timed brain puzzles: seek ‘n finds, memory games, literal puzzles to solve. You start out with a couple of puzzles to play and then work your way up to unlock more.
One of the eventual puzzles you get to unlock is called Gem Match. It’s another rip-off of something like Bejeweled or Candy Crush, but it differs in one main way. The goal of the puzzle is to clear before the timer – there are no points or ranking otherwise gained by anything. There’s nothing keeping track of anything you do, simply a countdown to beat. You either win in the allotted time and move to the next level, or you fail and stay stuck at the current level until you otherwise succeed. And the higher you go, the more artistic and complex the puzzles become to clear. And the more difficult it gets to physically match the speed of the clock.
Again and again I have repeated many a Gem Match level, drawing heavily on my ancient Bejeweled skills, burning a frightening path from block to block, sizzling down to the end with only a few more steps to go – only to have the last second expire forever before I can complete the quest. At that level, it’s purely a physical brain speed and coordination challenge. And sometimes the puzzle borders on physical impossibility.
That said, the game has “artifacts” that you can earn (or buy), which when used, essentially serve as cheats to help you clear a puzzle faster. So you can get down to the end of a Gem Match with only a couple of gems and seconds left to clear and – bam – use your artifacts to win the game.
It’s easy to build up a collection of these artifacts from other completed puzzle quests in the game. Plus you get one free every day you play the game, etc.. So once you have a collection of them, it’s easy to spend them like chump change burning a hole in your pocket.
As frustrated as I’d get sometimes, burning a path to victory only to have it snatched away at the last second, once I was properly equipped with artifacts, it often felt good to pull the rip cord and assure my victory with cheats at the first round of any level. Bam! Done! Whoot! They only help when you need a few seconds, but that’s all I needed to whiz on through.
But I began to notice something. Clearing a level too fast meant you missed stuff.
Cheating with artifacts was an effective strategy to win a game whose only point was to beat the clock. However, each level I repeated and repeated and repeated again (I think I repeated one level around 30 times) – built skills, nuances and even interest. Because there’s no one way to clear the game. Pattern after pattern, repeat after repeat, failure became an opportunity to explore the nooks and crannies of a challenge in different ways.
And I found, I enjoyed that. So I stopped using cheats. I stopped stressing and wanting to bust through the level as fast as possible. I began to enjoy a steady pace of curiosity instead.
Failing again and again, I started looking forward to exploring the same landscape a different way, learning the nuances and personality of each level, flowing through every corner and nook, like water playing the edges of a fall. Until finally I knew everything about each level inside and out.
Instead of blowing through one door just to exit out another in the first try, I was intimately getting to know the different patterns, artistry and landscape in each room. There was depth and curiosity where before there was simply speed. I was becoming a true expert of the behavior inherent of each level as I failed and repeated again and again.
And it hit me. About how important the not-easy journey can be. How quickly we can by-pass life in the name of “winning.” When really our lives and minds are enriched by understanding the very depths and possibilities of the not-straight line.
What makes someone an expert and a success isn’t an overnight rise to fame and fortune. It’s the exploration of the depths and nooks and crannies that an area of Life has to offer. It’s the curious mind who takes the time to test the failures as well as the successes. You miss out when you only go for the “win.”
Again and again, the religions and philosophies of the world seem to all tell us one main theme – slow down. Be pure of heart. Listen to the still soft voice.
Take the path more interesting.