Connecting the dots

d2d dot-to-dot bunny rabbitRemember when you were a child just learning numbers, and you got a dot-to-dot book for Christmas?

Sure enough, your brain would fill in the missing pieces and soon make a picture of a wagon or a bunny or a truck and you entered a space of discovery and excitement!

Gestalt psychologists call this our need for closure and consider it a primary impulse. They give you that picture of a triangle or a circle made with just dotted lines or dots. And your perception fills in the rest.

Folks who have had brain damage do the same thing—they start filling in the pieces, making up stories to fill the gaps, something that therapists call confabulation. We instinctively distrust the unfinished.

It works for me, too. I know that I hate series novels that I don’t know are series novels. I get to the end only to find it’s not an end, rather just the means to get you to buy the next segment? Ouch! I don’t like cliffhangers on TV shows either—having to wait the entire summer to know who shot JR? Pure torture!

I once went to an installation video art display. It consisted of video clips that played in a loop.  They were just segments of highly dramatic moments—a murder, a woman walking down a lonely street, a fight between two unrelated people. No matter when you ‘dropped in’ to the display you were able to make a story.  The fascinating thing was it would be a totally different story, depending on when you arrived! And that was the artist’s point of it all. 

It seems that we need to string all the pieces together, to make sense of it all. It has to have a reason. We need to connect the dots. 

But I am curious why this is so. Is it our need to control, I wonder, that gives us this compulsion to finish? That when we start a project (and I have a closet full of false-starts!) we feel this need to finish and feel guilty when we don’t?

Some cultures deliberately do NOT finish what they start. The Navajo sandpaintings always have one area unfinished, so that the Gods can leave and not be jealous of what man has created. But not many do.

Some days I wonder if our need for closure is a distraction. If some cosmic magician up there is deliberately diverting our attention away from fundamental truths. Allowing us to think we have control when in fact we don’t. For when you come right down to it, nothing is truly ever finished. One thing stops and another takes its place, rising from the ashes like a Phoenix bird, reborn and renewed.

Perhaps evolving from where we are comes down to a change in attitude. Possibly, we need to not finish things, and be OK with not finishing things. Although it seems hard-wired into our nature, perhaps realizing it is not is the first step toward becoming a more enlightened being?

I suspicion, deep in my soul that that this may be true. Now I just have to convince my itchy pencil-finger.  It is poised, at the ready to fill in the dots, wanting to make sense of that puzzle once again!

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About Intrepid Explorer

By writing we discover the world
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