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Cubes from the past
This is a story about my past experience with Rubik’s Cubes and how I’ve rediscovered them with my children. It’s about choices and trade offs and reflective on my memories.
I remember as a kid many attempts to solve a Rubik’s Cube. I love/d puzzles and remember thinking that I could solve a Cube with the same brute force iteration that I used with other puzzles. I vaguely recall eventually realising that I’d need to “learn” to solve it and then I remember giving up. I wonder why I didn’t try writing down combinations or find a library book on the topic but I can only assume that I just didn’t take it that seriously and discarded the idea. Maybe I was intimidated and wanted to focus on problems I “could solve” by my wits alone.
I’m now older and have young children. Cubes are back in my life and my son is especially keen to solve one. This got me interested to revisit my childhood and figure out what I had abandoned.
During the last month/s we formed a father-son team to solve the Cube. Our first attempt involved YouTube and a lot of pausing, rewind, play, repeat and confusion. We realised that figuring out how to solve a cube while watching a moving picture isn’t as intuitive as we expected. Next we tried websites and again found there was an overwhelming amount of advice and we quickly got lost.
Along the way we also realised that the Cubes we have are “baby customised” in that someone has pulled off pieces/tops and put them back in different places. Making some unique colour combinations - like two red sides. Rather than run a research experiment to allocate the right removable faces to the right parts, we gave up.
Before another attempt, I went online and bought two more standard cubes. While looking, I remembered that we bought a set of Minecraft books for the kids before which they love and learned a lot from. More than anything they read online or saw on YouTube. There is an official Rubik’s Cube book and we bought it.
Once the cubes and book arrived, we started another attempt over the weekend. This time reading along and following the steps. After a handful of start overs and resets we finally solved our first cube.
When the last row lined up, I was half expecting some kind of adrenaline rush or excitement. But it struck me as just “okay”. I’ve thought about that a lot since and I suspect it’s because I’ve not really “learned” to solve the Cube and figured it out on my own. I’ve just very carefully followed detailed instructions.
Our next attempts will be to slowly work towards being able to solve it without the instructions and with an understanding how the cubics move and shift.
This experience reminded me that sometimes the most meaningful experiences aren’t a single event but evolve over time. The fun of a Cube isn’t the solution. It’s the journey of solving a puzzle together with my children. It’s also been a contemplative experience as I wonder about my past self, my feelings and thoughts during that time.
I wonder how my children will look back on themselves and even how my parents do. I’ll ask them during our next call.
Try a Rubik’s Cube. You won’t regret it.