Finding the Picture in the Puzzle

“If a person puts even one measure of effort into following ritual and the standards of righteousness, he will get back twice as much.” — Xunzi

There are days that go by in a flash, overflowing with the assorted madness of living a full life. If we aren’t careful the day slips away and things we think of as quite essential to our core identity go unchecked. Ritual keeps us on track to realize our potential, and offers a way back when we miss the mark on those most maddening of days.

The beauty in positive routine is in the accumulation of these key bits of our identity. Like a jigsaw puzzle that gradually comes together from the edges in, we find our way to our core. If we’re lucky we complete the puzzle before someone loses a piece. But let’s face it, none of us is every fully complete anyway, though perhaps just enough that we can finally see what our picture really looks like.

Like that jigsaw puzzle, some aspects of our lives become easier to see as we make progress, but every now and then we realize we put a piece in the wrong place and have to rebuild something we thought we’d gotten right the first time. And sometimes we don’t have a picture to guide us, we just have to keep fiddling around until we get it right. Ritual is just so much fiddling around, patiently chipping away at the puzzle of our lives, wondering how things will turn out.

The only thing that’s certain is that the puzzle won’t solve itself. We must put in the work, one maddening, delightful, or frustrating piece at a time. We might have a pretty good idea how things may go, but inevitably we’ll be surprised by things we thought we’d figured out long ago. The magic is in the ritual and in discovering ourselves in the process.

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