You know that triangle puzzle you learned in grade school one Monday when the teacher forwent the lesson plan for something a little more “out of the box”? Or maybe when your uncle Wallace drew it for you on the back of a shopping list, getting the proportions a little wrong, rounding the corners a little too much? Or maybe when you were twelve, in the last section of the children’s menu at Romano’s Macaroni Grill, underneath the maze and the crossword and the drawing of the yellow crème brulée? Or maybe you saw it scrawled on a bathroom stall in Magic Marker, taped above a dorm room microwave, used as a major plot device in a paperback you bought in the Charles de Gaulle airport?
Yes, that one, the one anyone with a soul screws up on the first try. I like the premise, but I am not quite sure why. Graphic puzzles involving repetitive motifs are somehow enjoyable to me. I think there is something very gratifying about the patterns. Patterns are pretty, because they are recurring and as such peaceful to the human eye, but they are not as safe as they seem. They multiply and evolve and build and live forever, like 1 divided by 81, which is admittedly an unaesthetic number, yes, but it’s lovely because it continues a connection, it never dies: 0.012345679012345679012345679012345679012345679012345679012345679012345679012345679…
Chemical elements and crystallography and bee hives and the Vitruvian Man are shapely and regular and as close to perfection as nature can get. There’s something alluring in patterns, in the similarity between the two halves of a woman’s face, in that repetition. Sometimes there’s infinity there too, shrugging a shoulder in a background, constructing circles of an infinite number of sides. There’s something scary in patterns, to me at least, something very unsettling.
I think I will write a Lovecraftian horror story someday, and it will be about how marvelous and simultaneously horrifying the symmetry and beauty of patterns can be. If you think about it, everything that’s wrong about the world started because something deviated from the norm, turning the regular march of a pattern into a genocide. If you think about it, everything that’s right about the world started because something deviated from the norm, turning the regular march of a pattern into a revolution. I would like to know how these things happen, but I know I cannot. There comes a point where you cannot walk anymore. You bump against the walls of the world’s soft amniotic sac and you cannot do much more. Insurgents may cry, pressing the curlicues of their thumb prints into definite borders, wanting the space behind and in front and above and below and everywhere in between, the galaxy of things we cannot explain, the galaxy of things that don’t want to be explained. But we can’t guard over the creation of a nebula, or the coding of the proteins of an unborn human, these branching structures fracturing from the embryonic tree, the apex of a flower extending and and slicing and moving into a realm away from us, and the security of a pattern.