I’ve been doing this activity with youth that I work with for many years:
Connect these 9 dots using only four lines following these few rules:
you cannot lift your pen in drawing the lines;
you cannot draw back over a line after it’s been drawn;
the lines must be connected.
When I first was presented this puzzle, I couldn’t solve it. And most of the time, when I present the activity, people cannot get it. Every so often, I get someone who really sees outside the box and is able to get the solution.
Thinking, being, doing things outside the box presents a dilemma for me. I think I’ve lived a lot of my life outside the norm and dealing with the challenges that come with living outside the norm. While I want to be outside the norm, or the box, I am at the same time acknowledging that there is a box. But does acknowledging the box mean I just live my life in reaction and that my life exists because the box is there and will always be there? I don’t want to live my life in reaction– in reaction to stereotypes, in reaction to what I’m told by society that I should be, in reaction to boxes and norms and expectations.
How do we create a new reality? Is everything in society so entrenched that the boundaries of the box are etched in stone, permanent and unable to be rewritten and redrawn? Is there some sense that the permanence is being lifted?
I guess I can answer my own questions by saying I have to find hope in the little things. And hope even more that people are trying to push against the heavy dark lines outlining the boxes that confine us. CSAs, craigslist, car and bike shares, wikipedia, and other mechanisms where people share, depend on each other, build a sense of shared destiny and vision are all signs that the box isn’t so confining as it can seem at times.
I was talking with a friend about relationships and how frustrating it is that society’s expectation of relationships can be so confining, limiting, and even detrimental to individuals when we try to pursue our own and a sense of collective happiness. For example, though divorce has become more common, there is still a social stigma that makes it such a difficult experience (unless you’re a celebrity couple…). Marriage is a social construction, in other words, man-made. I wonder sometimes if (not that I’m opposed to committed, long-term relationships), if marriage for life is sometimes an unreasonable goal. Am I just being cynical because it didn’t work out for me?
Let’s look at some realities:
- people change at different rates and in different ways. Wouldn’t that affect a relationship if the changes aren’t in a similar direction for each person?
- the longer you are with a person, the more you learn about them that you couldn’t have known when you first got together. If you learn that you aren’t compatible later in life, is it fair to expect that you should stay together?
- often people stay together for the sake of the children. Wouldn’t it affect children negatively if their parents stayed together despite having all these negative feelings and tension? Would the children know what it means to have a healthy, loving relationship if they didn’t see that in their own parents?
Again, maybe I’m just being cynical. Or selfish at this point in my life as I get ready to embark on a physical and metaphysical journey. I know marriage is hard work. I know that relationships are hard work, and I am not saying these things to abdicate any responsibility of the hard work part. But I think sometimes society (ie. people) has unrealistic expectations about “till death do us part” that make it really hard for people in bad/unhealthy/unworkable relationships to leave and move on without feeling guilty and like they didn’t try hard enough or they even failed.
Whew, where did all that come from?
Leaving on a positive note– I like to think about the possibilities of another world where societal expectations are not oppressive and limiting but actually open us up to more opportunities, 2nd and 3rd and 4th changes, new experiences, and the ability to grow into the fullest version of ourselves.
By the way, to solve the puzzle at the beginning, go online and do a search for “nine dots.” You’ll see the picture of the solution in the images.