In our lives we expend a huge amount of energy working to overcome problems of all kinds. On the larger scale we have the driving forces which make their way into the media, trying to cure disease, the push for political power, but on the other end, the you and I end of the struggle continuum, we see, what’s the fastest way to work? How do I hit this deadline at work? All in all, we all know that struggle. The sensation of being confronted by an obstacle and having to work out a way around.
Problem solving becomes a huge part of who we are as a species. We lack the physical prowess of other forms of life on this planet so we had to evolve into our own niche. Our power is mental rather than physical. We can’t run at seventy miles an hour but we can build a device which can carry us at that speed. We can’t fly but again, we can design and build something which can allow us to soar through the air (in a controlled way rather than just jumping off something high!)
In each part of our lives, we are faced by problems. All of the time we’re confronted by problems we have to solve to allow us to continue with our day. Is this why so many stories have at their core the need for the protagonist to solve a puzzle?
We all recognise the puzzle and enjoy trying to resolve it before the big reveal at the end. I enjoyed the TV show Columbo but seeing who did it at the beginning and then spending the rest of the show watching the main character catch up did take the edge off a little. I wanted to try and work it out as the story unfolded, just like so many other fictional detectives.
But why is the need to resolve a problem, the need to overcome a struggle, so vital to us? In the film The Matrix, it’s pointed out that we as a species are practically defined by our misery. In the film, an earlier version of the Matrix was designed as a veritable Utopia but no-one would accept it.
Isn’t that what actually happens to us all the world over?
You tell someone ten things about yourself that are great and one which isn’t and the likelihood is that last fact will be the one which is remembered. We look to put people on pedestals only to tear them down. Our mass media will regularly be filled with ‘Boy Done Good’ stories which can highlight that success against the struggle is possible, look this person did it so you can too. Yet in no time at all we’ll see the arrival of the ‘Boy Done Not-So-Good’ tales new puzzles and obstacles being put in place.
We all strive to reach an end point. We want to be able to not worry about money, not worry about work, have the life we’ve always wanted. But will you be certain when you reach that point? When you clear that final hurdle, are you clear to run smoothly to the finish line happy that you’ve completed all of the puzzles, defeated all struggles, or will a brand new set of problems be set out?
We enjoy problem solving. We can define ourselves by our struggles, they are the life that happens while we’re planning for the life we want. I for one can see the benefits to all of the struggles that have jumped out at me. Without them, I’d never have actually sat down to write my book, so to all the struggles, give me your best shot.