I’ve always loved puzzles, and since I was very young enjoyed word puzzles in particular. I find crosswords to be both challenging, fun and relaxing, I also love Scrabble and most other games involving words. Some years ago a new trend in puzzles emerged, Sudoku. Number puzzles have been around for a long time but Sudoku became very popular and now appear alongside the daily crossword in many publications around the world. I suppose in some ways numbers are more universal, counting doesn’t really change in different languages. I really enjoy problem solving, and I think doing puzzles has made me better at problem solving in other ways in my life, it encourages analytical thought.
I tried Sudoku but it just didn’t turn me on, I guess I’m a crossword person. I’m not bad with numbers and was quite adept at maths as a child but in my teenage years found numeracy to be a chore due to the total lack of creativity involved in the way it was taught to me. I still to this day love doing crosswords.
Most people I’ve come across who enjoy doing puzzles do tend to have a preference either way, you’re a crossword person or a Sudoku person.
There’s only two types of people, crossword or Sudoku. Words or numbers, men or women, positive or negative, practical or creative, clean or tidy, organised or chaotic, The Beatles or Rolling Stones, Vegetarian or Meat eater… wait, I forgot vegan, where does that fit in? Maybe there’s three types of people? I can be positive about things and negative about others, so that’s another blurred line and quite a lot of people like The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, maybe it’s not all so black and white.
Of course it isn’t, people are diverse. When we are teenagers most people tend to want to find their identity, this is quite normal, some people struggle to do this and others find their niche quite easily. Anyone who has watched an American high school film knows you are either jock, Goth, geek, cool girl, stoner or whatever. We’re supposed to be something, we’re supposed to fit into a nice box with a big clear label on it.
My two closest friends at school had very similar backgrounds to me, we were all white working class boys and all of us came from broken homes. By the time we met some parents had remarried, some hadn’t but we shared this experience, not that we made a big deal out of it. We all liked heavy rock music and showed each other bands to listen to, then books and films to read, we were all very unfashionable as well. Generally we had the same likes and dislikes, but most importantly we shared a sense of humour which is the greatest way of people bonding. At this point you were supposed to like one type of music or have one way of dressing but we didn’t, we liked a variety of things and as we got older together this just became more diverse. We started a band together and all eventually moved away to the same city and at different times lived together. One major difference was what we chose to do with our working lives. I was working in kitchens then eventually moved into social care, Dean got his teaching qualification then started working in libraries and Richard studied film. Somehow at this very point in time, we now all work in education, in very different roles but still, education. Is this some kind of coincidence or is this something that was always inherent in us? We certainly all liked knowledge and telling others what we knew that they didn’t.
None of the clichés really applied to us and we all have strong personalities and opinions but we’ve strangely ended up following similar paths. Maybe it’s just coincidence, maybe we’re all born educators?
When I was at school I had no real idea of what my future would look like in regards to career and the staff certainly struggled to help me make decisions on my direction, advising teenagers what to do with their lives must be a thankless task at times.
At the time we were finishing high school and making choices about what to do next the internet was only just coming in, we didn’t have the research options that people have now, we were a long way from social media and the ability to share ideas and opinions so easily. If you use social media which a huge amount of the population now does you will find yourself bombarded with advice on how to live your life, how to choose what you should do and how to be a better person in all manner of ways. There are memes making vast blanket statements about life such as.
“The true measure of success is how many times you can bounce back from failure”
“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”
“Stars can’t shine without darkness”
And literally millions of other ones, they usually have a quote pasted over an image of a waterfall, or a beautiful sky. Most memes are made for comedy value, but there is a massive amount of these motivational memes as some kind of facile means of self-help. There’s nothing wrong with telling people to love themselves, we should do that but you’re not going to become a better person by reading a quote.
In addition to memes and possibly more dangerous is the vast amount of “scientific” articles telling us that avocados cure cancer, or vaccine’s cause Autism or shedding your personal possessions will make you a more caring person. If you read any of these it’s increasingly hard to define whether or not they are from a reputable source. There was a well-known trend of memes featuring famous figures with quotes applied to them that weren’t true, one of the best featured a picture of Abraham Lincoln and it read.
“The Problem with internet quotes is you never know how authentic they are” Abraham Lincoln.
I don’t need to explain why that is brilliant.
Fake News is a phrase made famous by Donald Trump recently and has even triggered legislative reviews into people publishing blatantly fake information. This can obviously be dangerous, the Andrew Wakefield Vaccines causing Autism publication still affects people, even though it’s been proven he faked his results many people still believe it. Fake News can be dangerous but defining what is fake news and not just someone’s opinion is difficult and in the belief that free speech is important, I personally want to be able to say whatever I believe on the internet and should I be wrong someone is welcome to correct me (just back it up). I don’t like or agree with much of what I see published online but I don’t want to stop people doing this. Hate speech and harassment fall into a different category because they are directed at people and in a modern world no one should put up with that. If we prevent freedom of speech generally we risk living in an authoritarian world where your beliefs are not your own, but I don’t see that happening.
I and many others certainly apply an analytical view to anything I read or hear, but many people do not and will gladly believe what the read despite the source not showing any real credentials, let alone proper research.
Maybe there are two types of people. Those who believe any old shit and those who don’t.
In 2018 life isn’t simple, we have to navigate much more information and influences that certainly wasn’t accessible to me 20 years ago when I was entering adult life. There is healthy interest in figuring out why things are the way they are and what life is about, it feels sometimes like we are all in that state of teenaged life of trying to stamp our identity on the world. You will be told, again and again, what you should believe in, how you should look, why you should stop eating cheese, how to know if you’re attractive to the opposite sex and many other suggestions. You should always try and improve yourself, no one is perfect but you shouldn’t ever do it based on others standards, which I know is difficult at times considering the many influences we have in our lives. You will have friends, parents, employers, media and laws telling you how to be and ignoring it all is impossible but you should cast a critical eye upon all advice.
I don’t believe our paths in life are in any way preordained, if so you wouldn’t need to try anything. But there are parts of your life that influence you or are very natural to you which you cannot deny, and maybe not fight against, if these things are positive this is great.
If I choose veganism, or a religion or to like certain music or to do crosswords that will be my choice and I’ll do it because it’s right or because I have informed myself through reliable sources. You should do what’s good for you, providing it doesn’t harm anyone else of course, but don’t believe all the self-help gurus and memes and dodgy websites pedalling answers.
You can keep your motivational quotes to yourself. I’m a crossword person.
 I put this down to bad teaching, numbers are great and can be used creatively.