In the pursuit of happiness, we get so caught up in attaining that one thing/person/mindset that that we often forget that there is happiness to be found in the pursuit, but only if we allow it. Or something like that. Anyway, that’s the lesson of Shel Silverstein’s classic, The Missing Piece.
There’s this Pacman-shaped thing that doesn’t have a name, so we’ll call it Blueberry, because he looks like someone cut out a slice of pie, ate it, and threw the rest of the pie in the trash. And blueberry pie is my favorite. Apple and peach are good, too, but Blueberry is a much better name for a two-dimensional character.
Blueberry’s not happy because he’s missing a piece, specifically the piece that goes in the space where his mouth is.
So Blueberry goes on a quest to find his missing piece, singing a terribly uncreative song in the process. It goes exactly like this: “Oh I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece/I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece/Hi-dee-ho, here I go/Lookin’ for my missin’ piece.”
Terribly uncreative, but no different from the songs you hear when you turn on the radio. I could go on four paragraphs about the state of music right now, but I’ll show some restraint.
Because Blueberry is missing a piece, he can’t roll very fast, so he stops to smell flowers, talk to worms, race beetles, and let butterflies land on his head. He travels through a variety of environments, which influences his songwriting: “Oh I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece/Over land and over seas/So grease my knees and fleece my bees/I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece.”
Blueberry is a two-dimensional shape. He doesn’t have knees or bees. He’s creating this fictional world all for the sake of the rhyme, much like the agriculturally conscious rappers who claim to have “hoes in different area codes,” which is presumably a testament to how big their farms are — they’re so huge, they span across numerous area codes, which requires these farm rappers to keep hoes in each area code as opposed to carrying one hoe around wherever they go. At least, that’s what I think it means.
Or maybe Shel Silverstein isn’t showing us the whole picture. Maybe Blueberry does have bees, and maybe he has swindled these bees out of a great deal of money. Because that’s what fleece means in verb form. If that’s the case, these bees should take Blueberry to court, because that’s not cool.
One day, Blueberry comes across his missing piece. Or so he thinks. The piece tells Blueberry that it’s not his missing piece, or anyone’s missing piece, because it’s a strong, independent piece.
And so they part ways. Suddenly, after not meeting any pieces for a long time, Blueberry meets a lot of pieces. Some are too small, some are too big, some are too sharp. One piece isn’t even the right shape.
Another one seems to fit at first, but it gets away because it’s too loose. Another one is crushed by Blueberry’s mouth.
Blueberry keeps having adventures, such as getting shot in the mouth with an arrow, bumping into stone walls and getting stuck in holes.
Finally, Blueberry comes across a piece that looks like it will fit. Both seem nervous, but after a short conversation, they decide to give it a go.
And it’s a perfect fit!
Blueberry is now complete, and he’s rolling the fastest he’s ever rolled. He has no time to talk to worms or smell flowers, but at least he can still sing his stupid song.
But he can’t! Because there’s a piece in his mouth, there’s no room left for singing.
He decides he’s not cut out for this new lifestyle, so he breaks up with the piece.
The story ends with Blueberry singing his song about finding his missing piece.
The piece gets the raw end of the deal here. It was willing to try something new, it put itself out there, and how did that end up? Badly. What if the piece never finds another thing like Blueberry again? What if Blueberry was the one and only perfect partner for the piece?
So it goes. Some people are Blueberry, and other people get the short end of the stick.
Side note: There are probably some people who’ll point out that Blueberry could have saved himself a lot of trouble if he kept his mouth closed, because then he would be a complete circle. That’s true, but for Blueberry, it’s not about being complete. It’s about being able to sing songs with stupidly simple rhyme schemes that make no sense, because that’s what makes him happy.
Moral of the story: Relationships are binding. They keep you down. If you’re with someone and you feel like you can’t be yourself around them, they’re probably not right for you. Being single can be the most freeing thing ever.
But maybe this story is about more than relationships.
Blueberry thought he was looking for his missing piece. But what he was really missing was peace. It wasn’t until he found the piece that he realized that he had peace all along, because the search for the piece was what gave him peace.
We all get so caught up in the pursuit of happiness that we forget to enjoy the pursuit itself. It’s going to be stressful if we spend all of our time worrying about uncertainty or what other people think. And so many times, we strive towards a goal only to realize once we attain it that it’s not all we made it out to be.
In no way am I talking trash about romantic relationships. They are great. If you’re in one, that’s great. If not, that’s great too.
Don’t waste a good worry. If you can’t control something, don’t bother stressing out over it.
So if you’re like Blueberry, searching for your missing piece, just sit back, enjoy the ride, talk to some worms and sing your song. You’ll find your missing piece soon enough.
Unless you don’t. Because some of you won’t.
But that’s for another time.