How are you framing your world? Is it possible to even put the puzzle of modern life together? Perhaps there is something we can learn about framing from the metaphor of solving a puzzle…
It has been a very long time since I last wrote a blog. To be honest, I haven’t felt the urge. It seems like in the last year, everyone has an opinion. Popular media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and mainstream media outlets can be overwhelming us with the volume of information. That is not even considering it is filtered and biased to present a specific narrative. Adding alternative media like Bitchute, Substack, Rumble and others just makes it even more complex to navigate, especially since these sources often contain alternative points of view. How do you even begin framing your world with so much information to digest? After all, what is truth anyway?
One of my passions in the colder months is solving puzzles. Yes, the good old fashioned kind. They come in a box with 500, 750 or more pieces. Often complex art or pictures that may have repetitive portions or similar sections to make them even more difficult. I not only enjoy the challenge but also find the process slows down my mind, focuses my attention and turns down the noise that surrounds me. All of this is important for mental health reasons but also physical. Perhaps puzzle solving strategies are key principles for framing all that surrounds us. Let’s examine a few that work for me. We’ll apply this to the current COVID-19 pandemic to illustrate the point. Hopefully your metaphoric alarm bells will be going off!
Start with the edge pieces – boundaries
The first step I always take when solving a puzzle is to sort through the pieces and separate out the edge pieces. They are usually easy to find because they are unique and different from the rest. Once they are separated, I then begin to build the edge of the puzzle, the boundary of where the puzzle ends in every direction.
The metaphor here should be obvious and the first principle of framing your world. In the midst of confusion and too much information, what are the boundaries of my world or more importantly where should I focus.? My family, my neighbourhood, my city/town or wider? What is my personal life experience and where do I have knowledge and expertise that can be applied to the situation I am facing? As an example, finding a solution to limiting COVID-19 transmission on a cruise ship is outside physical boundaries of my life (I have no interest in going on a cruise) and is beyond my personal expertise anyway. That situation is outside my boundary (frame) and something I can ignore.
Categorizing the pieces – patterns
Once the edge of the puzzle is finished, it is time to begin sorting the remaining pieces. Are there common colours or pieces of recognizable objects (e.g. house, car, animal) that can be grouped together? What stands out to me as I scan the pieces? What piques my interest?
Categorizing and recognizing patterns is a learned skill that is often based on years of experience, including past mistakes. As an example, what I thought was a blue lake was actually a blue sky. Upon closer examination, I realized that the blue lake pieces had a texture to them that the sky did not. That assisted me in separating the lake pieces from the sky pieces.
Taking this metaphor further, when I am searching through the random pile of pieces (information) I notice a piece on one part of the table that looks very similar to one that is elsewhere (matching data). Putting them together confirms my suspicion and I group them together (trend). As I see similar pieces in the pile, I continue the sorting to increase the size of the group.
Simple examples here are the regularly reported COVID statistics. Often numbers are intermixed and patterns are not always obvious. Inaccurate conclusions can be reached if the patterns are not correctly identified. Is the number reported confirmed positive cases or symptomatic infections? Hospitalized or ICU patients? Deaths from COVID or with COVID? Notice we haven’t formed an opinion of where this information should be applied yet but only ensuring we are working with similar data. This is critical for the next step.
Fitting the pieces together – narrative
This is where the real work begins. Until now, I am only organizing the pieces (data) and preparing to solve the puzzle (complete our analysis). At this stage of puzzle solving, I start to attempt to fit the pieces together to build out sections of the puzzle into the correct image. Often I find that my initial categorization was wrong and what I thought was a lake piece was really a sky piece (or vice versa). Also, despite many sincere attempts that I thought must be correct, I cannot make that piece fit with another piece. After trying several times, I then put that piece aside (within its category of course) and leave it for later when it may fit elsewhere. Completing the puzzle then becomes a disciplined exercise of recognizing a pattern/colour, attempting to fit into my frame and when it does then doing it again for another piece. Slowly the image emerges as I continue the process.
A narrative or story is simply how we put together data in a way that makes sense and that hangs together within our frame. This is where the metaphor for COVID may break down since it is far more complex than a physical puzzle and the facts (pieces) may be changing as we go along. Or are they?
One of the constant refrains we hear from various sources (primarily government ones) is that we are “following the science” and the “science is changing”. Often this is simply a diversionary tactic. While opinions, recommendations and mandates may be changing, the facts have not and have never changed. The issue is, are we sincerely pursuing the facts (puzzle pieces) to accurately inform our categorization (pattern recognition) to build a truly science based opinion (narrative) so that the correct picture can be visible to the world? At this point in the COVID journey, I would say no. This is easily proven by the clear evidence of media censorship, marginalizing and silencing of questioning scientists and aggressive promotion of a single vaccine centric solution to the supposed pandemic. To reflect back to our puzzle metaphor of framing your world, this is much like attempting to complete a puzzle by removing pieces from the table that do not fit our opinion of what the final image should look like. We will never complete the COVID puzzle with this approach since it is fundamentally flawed.
What now? – a response
As it is with completing a puzzle and framing your world, approaching a complex life challenge like navigating COVID will always come down to a few simple principles:
- To solve the puzzle on your own, you must own the boundary setting, pattern recognition and narrative creation. Failure to take ownership delegates this to someone else to do it for you.
- If you want to solve the puzzle as a group, make sure the others share the same strategies and values around boundary setting, pattern recognition and narrative creation. It will be very difficult to solve the puzzle if the group is working at cross-purposes and is not aligned.
- If you decide to consult an expert, you might want to make sure you have confidence they are capable of solving the puzzle based on their track record. In the case of COVID, the puzzle impacts your life so think long and hard about who gets to influence it or perhaps affect it permanently.
Now go forth and frame your world!