It’s nearly 40 years since the Rubik's Cube came out. I just learned how to solve one yesterday.
I can’t really take any credit for that. Tutorials and guides have obviously existed for decades. Whatever depths there are to plumb in that plastic toy have been fully plumbed. I think I even had a second hand book on How to Master the Cube, or something like that but I don’t know that I ever got more than a page or two into it. We had a couple of cubes, a pyramid, some 2x2’s from cereal boxes, and, I think, a ball. I don’t remember ever solving any of them. If I had any interest in learning how to solve one I certainly didn’t apply it.
The real reason that I can’t take any credit for learning how to solve a Rubik’s Cube, is because I didn’t. My son did.
There seems to have been a resurgence of the Rubik's Cube speed solving fad. At least among my son and his friends. One day he asked where the Rubik’s Cube was. We had picked one up at a garage sale years ago and left it in the car as a potential distraction during long trips. Like a great majority of the worlds Rubik’s Cubes, it had probably been played with half a dozen times. It had grit and something sticky on it, but it still worked. He used it a few times before taking it apart, cleaning it up, and lubricating the surfaces so that it moved fairly smoothly again.
Over the next week of so, he would sit on the couch for extended spans just watching youtube videos and reading pages about solving the cube while practicing the moves required to jostle its faces into position. It wasn’t long before he could solve it repeatedly and started to work on increasing his speed.
Sometimes you just need implied permission to do something. The Rubik’s Cube is almost as old as I am and, being a curious sort about puzzles and games, I’ve always wanted to know how it worked. Sometime over the past few decades, I did find out that it wasn’t terribly complicated and you only needed to memorize a small set of moves and patterns. Memorizing small sets of moves and patterns pretty much describes any work I have done since my 20s, so I figured how hard could it be. Still, until my son did it, and in turn provided me with implied permission to try, I wasn’t likely to dedicate myself to it for any length of time. Now I had a teacher if something wasn’t making sense and someone who knew the process well enough to ask cube questions in cube terms.
I’ll probably never be as fast at it as he is, but that’s okay. I have zero interest in competing at Rubik’s Cube solving. If he is or isn’t, then that’s okay too. Sometimes it’s just nice to know that if you decide to learn a thing, you probably can. It makes learning all the other things that seem complicated a little less daunting.