From the Rectory – November

In 1760, the engraver and cartographer John Spilsbury mounted a map onto a sheet of hardboard, and using a marquetry saw, produced the first jigsaw puzzle. Originally known as dissections, these ‘dissected maps’ were used to teach geography, as the pieces were cut along national borders.
It wasn’t until around 1880 that the name ‘jigsaw’ became associated with the puzzles, when fretsaws began to be used to cut them up into pieces. Why they were not called ‘fretsaw puzzles’ seems to have been an accident of history. In the following years, subject matter became more varied. From cityscapes to pastoral scenes, steam trains to film posters, there is now no theme off limits.
Although many modern jigsaws are made from paperboard for economic reasons, premium products are still popular. The Wentworth Wooden Jigsaw Company produces unique and intricately crafted wooden puzzles using computer-controlled laser cutters to cut the pieces. Their unique selling point is the bespoke pieces, known as ‘whimsies’, that feature in their puzzles. An elephant, a car, a butterfly or a watering can can all be found in various products that the company sells.
Having fallen out of favour with the advent of at first the television, and then other screen based entertainment from gaming systems to mobile phones, jigsaws have in recent years seen something of a resurgence in popularity. More than six million were sold in 2013. Limited editions have attracted the attention of collectors, and some have even begun to see increases in value.
In every puzzle, however large, whatever picture it features, regardless of how long it takes to finish, every piece is needed to complete it. Just one missing piece leaves a gap that can’t be filled by anything else.
The quest for meaning in life has been described as the search to find something to fill a God shaped hole. The fifth century saint, Augustine of Hippo, famously said ‘our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God’. We can try to force all sorts of other things into the hole in our hearts. From the pursuit of fame and fortune, to horoscopes or crystals, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Ultimately it is only Jesus who is the right shape to complete the jigsaw of our lives.

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