the least interesting thing to do with a puzzle is solve it


Why would anyone want to play with a toy that is so damn hard? The Rubik’s Cube entered our collective cultural experience 30 years ago, next month, and there is still no satisfying answer. At first, in the early ’80s, we all had fun just spinning it around in our hands. The original Cube was an elegant object — a perfect 3x3x3, solid but also flexible and smooth. It was covered in bright colored stickers and felt good to hold. But it didn’t make hilarious noises or crazy smells. It didn’t talk or pee or dance. You couldn’t dress it up and (a minor thing here) it was impossible. Even so, we all had to have it. Its impossibility was funny, and this satisfied us. Then, quietly, slowly, we started to hear the stories. People, children like us, were starting to solve it. The Cube transformed these boys (because they were mostly boys) from goofy weird dudes without social skills into superhuman weird dudes that were intimidating. The boys who solved Rubik’s Cube were like wizards, distant and terrifying demigods with magical qualities. This is because a single, unspeakable question lingered around them: How much committed alone time had they spent with the Cube? We didn’t want to know the answer. Hours? Days? Weeks?

more from Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set here.