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Note: If a film in which two socially awkward men make up paddleball games, do jigsaw puzzles, watch kung-fu movies, and face a terminal diagnosis, appeals to you, then bookmark this post, go watch the movie, Paddleton, on Netflix, and then come back to this post. I’m not going to spoil the whole movie here, but I am revealing the end of one minor thread.
Early in the melancholy comedy, Paddleton, we see Mark Duplass’s character, Michael, wearing a green shirt that his best friend, Andy (played by Ray Ramano) has had made for him. On the shirt, an unfinished hangman game, with only three letters revealed:
___ ___ _T_ ___ _Y_
___ ___ _R_ ___
For a year and a half, Michael has been trying to solve the puzzle: “It’s FATTY PORK!”
“No!” says Andy. “It’s not FATTY PORK. If it was FATTY PORK, then there would be two T’s. There’d be another T right there.”
“It’s SATAY FORK! Little fork. Little appetizer fork.”
“No- it’s not.” Andy says. “Nothing in the kitchen. Get out of the kitchen. I’ll give you that info, and that’s it.” And then, after a laugh, “I sort of think — I like that it bothers you.”
Toward the end of the movie, not long before Michael is about to die, he asks Andy to finally tell him the answer to the puzzle.
“I’ll tell you…. I don’t think you’re going to like it, though… It’s nothing.”
“Nothing?!” Michael is incredulous.
Andy explains. “Because when we do puzzles – it’s a lot of work and it’s hard, but it’s fun.”
Michael interrupts, “And there’s a finish!”
“But you always look sad,” Andy says. “You don’t see it. I see it. You always look sad. And so, you know what?” Andy thinks back to when he had the shirt made. “He’ll never get it. He’ll never get this shirt. This will be his favourite shirt.”
Yes. There is something in us that wants to solve puzzles and reach conclusions and resolve conflicts. There is something satisfying about this.
AND YET, there is also something in us that delights in the lack of resolution – being unsatisfied.
Andy and Michael embodied this wisdom from Proverbs 25:2.
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
It turns out that not solving a matter can be quite glorious. Fourth century bishop, St. Gregory of Nyssa, touches on this (italics mine):
The soul that looks finally to God,
conceives a new, mouth-watering desire
for His eternal beauty,
and tasting this,
she awakens to an ever greater yearning–
an ache never to be fully satisfied.
By this sweet hurt,
she never ceases to extend herself,
to touch those things beyond her reach
and ever beckoning.
By this she finds herself passing,
from her present circumstance
to enter more deeply the interior,
and to find there yet another circumstance awaiting.
And thus, at every point she learns
that each new splendour
is to be eclipsed by what will come–
and leads the belovéd to a beauty of her own.
I was struck, at the end of their shirt-conversation, by Michael’s smile… Even though he didn’t “get” the shirt that Andy got for him, he “got it.” In the end, the shirt was less about solving a puzzle and more about delight in friendship.
How un-satisfyingly satisfying…. that God has chosen to make known among us the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)