Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband. The Big O that I was fortunate enough to meet and fall in love with 50 years ago.
The Missing Piece Meets the Big O: Shel Silverstein’s Sweet Allegory for the Simple Secret of Love and the Key to Nurturing Relationships
A gentle reminder that the best relationships don’t complete us but let us grow and become more fully ourselves.
Silverstein tells the tale of a lonely little wedge that dreams of finding a big circle into which it can fit, so that together they can roll and go somewhere. Various shapes come by, but none are quite right.
The missing piece tries to make itself more attractive, flashier — but that scares away the shy ones and leaves it ever lonelier.
At last, one comes along that fits just right, and the two roll on by blissfully.
But then, something strange starts happening — the missing piece begins to grow.
And just like in any relationship where one partner grows and the other remains static, things end in disappointment — and then they just end. The static circle moves along, looking for a piece that won’t grow.
At last, a shape comes by that looks completely different — it has no piece missing at all — and introduces itself as the Big O.
The exchange between the missing piece and the Big O is nothing short of breathstopping:
“I think you are the one I have been waiting for,” said the missing piece. “Maybe I am your missing piece.”
“But I am not missing a piece,” said the Big O. “There is no place you would fit.”
“That is too bad,” said the missing piece. “I was hoping that perhaps I could roll with you…”
“You cannot roll with me,” said the Big O, “but perhaps you can roll by yourself.”
This notion is utterly revelatory for the missing piece, doubly so when the Big O asks if it has ever tried. “But I have sharp corners,” the missing piece offers half-incredulously, half-defensively. “I am not shaped for rolling.”
But corners, the Big O assures it, can wear off — another elegant metaphor for the self-refinement necessary in our personal growth. With that, the Big O rolls off, leaving the missing piece alone once more — but, this time, with an enlivening idea to contemplate.
The missing piece goes “liftpullflopliftpullflop” forward, over and over, until its edges begin to wear off and its shape starts to change. Gradually, it begins to bounce instead of bump and then roll instead of bounce — rolling, like it always dreamt of doing with the aid of another, only all by itself.
And here comes Silverstein’s tenderest, most invigorating magic — when the missing piece becomes its well-rounded self, the Big O emerges, silently and without explanation. In the final scene, the two are seen rolling side by side.
“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry