Treating life like a jigsaw puzzle

The interview was not going well.

Wednesday, 17th January 2018, 12:23 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th January 2018, 12:25 pm
The Ven Michael Everitt, Archdeacon of Lancaster

“Are you a detail or big picture person?” was launched and I knew I was sunk.

It is a question that cannot be answered in an interview in a good way. If you say “detail” the accusation is that you are a micro-manager, obsessed and interfering.

If you say, “big picture” then you don’t focus enough and mistakes occur because you don’t notice them. I tried to say both, “as applicable” but that simply confirms whichever one the interviewer has decided that you are!

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I revisited this nightmare interview at New Year. Every New Year, my father-in-law unveils a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle of a fair degree of difficulty which needs completing in the couple of days my family are with him. This tradition of about 20 years is the only time I do a jigsaw.

Childhood training of edges first kicks in, backs and eyes get strained as the box picture is interrogated, individual pieces rotated, nuance of colours noted (especially if there is sea or sky). There is the frustration of the pieces which look as if they should go in one place and then are revealed as being a detail from elsewhere. Big picture and acute detail needed at the same time.

At the heart of the Old Testament are 150 songs written in and for a whole range of circumstances. The Lord’s my Shepherd, I lift up my eyes to the hills, By the Waters of Babylon. There is in the psalms a celebration of God creating the heavens and the earth.

A recognition of the immensity of time and space and also of the intimacy of cells developing as we are “knit together in our mother’s womb.” God is shown to be both a big picture person and a detail person. While I view life as being both more dynamic and complex than a jigsaw puzzle, that combination of detail and overview is compelling.

An intimate interest and involvement combined with holding on to an immensity and infinite universe.

This might not satisfy all, for sometimes we have, like the interviewer, decided on what we think of the answer that is given. For me (perhaps because I am a “both and” person) it gives comfort and hope and helps me to do my yearly jigsaw challenge.