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“Life Sudoku”

Flickr- image by Tim Psych

Am I the only person that despises crossword puzzles?

Sometimes I feel like that, as I see people scribbling away all over the place: on the bus, at the beach, in the library and even when my brother-in-law visits (flying 5000km just to sit on our couch and scratch some words in a newspaper).   It’s not just crosswords either, it’s wordplay in general, which includes word-finds and about half the board games out there (I’m looking at you, Scrabble).

You know what’s even worse than word-play?  Number-play, as in, Sudoku.  Just thinking about configuring simple numbers into complex patterns gets me agitated.  I honestly would rather clean a toilet than partake in a single round of Sudoku.  Yuck.

While I question how people could possibly find enjoyment in crosswords or Sudoku, I fully understand why they do it.  Messing around with words and numbers keeps your brain active in ways it’s not normally used, helping keep mental sharpness and ward off maladies like dementia.  It’s the age-old adage:  Use it or lose it.

So what’s a person like me to do?  I’m sure the net benefit of forcing myself to do crosswords and Sudoku would be negated by the excruciating boredom I would experience.  Plus who wants to put themselves through a lifetime of doing something they disdain?  Not me.

In response to this, I’ve come up with a solution for my predicament.  Through a series of articles and books, I discovered that the most important part about word/number play is that it forces your brain to think in ways it normally wouldn’t.  Therefore, similar benefits could be accrued by doing plum-well anything that exercises the brain in new and different ways.  As a result, I’ve decided to begin pursuing something I like to call “life Sudoku”, which is the act of ‘hacking’ your life to include new physical, social and artistic undertakings.  To illustrate, here are a few examples of activities and actions that make my brain work overtime and yours too, should you try them out:

– Opposite-handed mousing:  Every now and then, switch your mouse to the opposite hand and spend a few hours fighting through crippling cursor-dysfunction.  Actually, an officemate of mine in Vancouver did this very thing for an entire year! 

– Walking with your eyes closed:  I’m not talking about huge, long walks but rather smaller jaunts, like the route from your car to the house.  Or if you live in an apartment, try and make it from your suite to the mailbox and back without looking.

– Eating food in the dark:  This is actually a pretty big movement in some regions.  In fact, there are actual restaurants in Montreal and Toronto where everybody dines in the dark (O.Noir).  The best way to do this at home though, is to have someone else prepare a meal you wouldn’t normally eat, without telling you what it is.  Then, in the dark, take your time and savour each bite, really focusing on the variety of flavours and scents that you encounter.

– Talking to strangers:  In day-to-day life, we encounter thousands of different people but hardly ever speak to any of them.  In fact, for me, almost every conversation is with someone I know really well, which means that on some level, chatting is always comfortable and predictable.  Push your brain’s boundaries by engaging people who catch your eye, for one reason or another and focus on finding out things about them.

– Listening to unfamiliar music:  Buy or borrow an album you normally wouldn’t be caught dead listening to, carve an hour out of your life and sit by yourself, uninterrupted and listen to it from beginning to end.  I mean really listen to it.  Listen for the beat, try and establish the lyrics, pick out the different instruments used on each track and differentiate the subtle layers.  If you were my father, a rap album would do the trick.

– Traitorous sports watching:  When you watch sports, occasionally try cheering for the opposite team.  If you’re a Maple Leafs fan and they’re playing the Canadiens, then force yourself to watch the game from the Canadiens perspective.  It’s actually quite difficult to do and can lend a unique angle to the game.

These examples of “life Sudoku” are just a scant few.  What’s more, they are influenced by my own personal interests and worldview, so they may not be for everyone.  The goal in sharing them was to try and give some examples to help spur individual ideas in others (and to help liberate the human race from the shackles of crosswords and Sudoku).  If you read this and think of a good idea yourself, absolutely feel free to share it in the comments section below.  And good luck with your opposite-handed tooth brushing!  Two minutes feels like a hand-marathon.

Having lived on both coasts and smack-dab in the middle of the prairies, Mark believes himself to be quite the well-rounded Canadian. That being said, he sure does struggle with appropriate regional diction. Remind him again: Is it pronounced scallop or skahllop?

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