The puzzle was almost complete. Some said it already was, and that it was just a matter of polish now. I still thought we had a long way to go, but the timeframe was probably getting a lot shorter now.
In our more primitive days, many would often try to force fit us together. This usually did not end well, but we didn't really know of better alternatives then, or were not very good at implementing alternatives. As a result, many pieces would lose parts of ourselves in order to find a place, while others of us would lose so much that we did not survive for long.
We're thankful for the work of our predecessors though. Through their hard work and suffering, the puzzle they left us was coming together in a way that was accelerating its completion. The knowledge we had gathered over the centuries was giving us new ways to fit together, which included those that could never fit before. And because interfaces were improving, our output was increasing, which in turn improved our methods for finding and creating better fits.
We had learned to add new interfaces to pieces such that we appeared in ways that would have been unrecognizable to the pieces of the distant past. Some pieces added so many layers that their original forms were lost, but our fit into the puzzle around us was always improving with the latest technology and discoveries. This was what made the puzzle almost complete.
Though the picture itself was still near impossible to make out, it was pretty clear from the speed of change that we would soon arrive. Some predicted the Big Picture would emerge in too many dimensions for any of us individual pieces to fully grasp. Perhaps the only thing that would be able to fully comprehend the completed picture would be the collective consciousness of we who make up its individual parts.
As of this writing, there were still parts of the Big Picture where it was difficult, for me, to imagine how we would ever get any kind of stable interface, although there were always those working hard at trying to figure that out. But time never failed to march on - what may look like an impossibility today may be blindsided by something thoroughly unexpected tomorrow. It may well be that even if correct interfaces could not be directly added, some pieces might start building in new dimensions previously unthought of, producing structures as strange to us today as we would be to our primitive selves.
Even as many of us were building out, not a small number were building inwards as well. We all had collected many layers in our years working on this puzzle, and perhaps not all those layers were ideal or efficient. So even if we did mostly fit into the puzzle around us, it may not be the best fit, or perhaps if some interface were tweaked, we would be able to add new dimensions into which we could join the Big Picture.
So some of us worked on peeling back and examining the layers we had built up over our lifetimes, and in some cases, peeling back the layers surrounding large sections of the picture that had been building up for generations. It wasn't always easy though. Inside the onions, there were tears. Sometimes it would be too much, and we would have to stop without accomplishing much. Other times some pieces would be able to push through and reshape themselves at a much deeper level.
Care had to be taken - some theorized that removing too many layers would leave us with a formless void, without identity or attachment to any part of our picture, a source of perhaps incredible power, but a chaotic and uncontrollable one, something more to be feared than used. And so we would usually stop before we got too deep, just enough to reshape the important layers, without unnecessarily exposing the darker, more raw layers. It was a tough balance to strike for the experts, knowing just how deep to dig. Certainly something beyond my ability, though occasionally I would watch with some interest.
Everything around me however was changing so fast that as soon as I turned my attention back to the rest of the picture, many parts of it had already changed into something I no longer recognized or understood. I suppose that was a regular occurrence for us these days, and the best we could hope for was to at least make sense of the parts of the picture in our immediate vicinity.
Fortunately for us, new tools were always being created to help us see the picture in new ways. At times we might attach some of these tools to ourselves permanently, while others were attached only temporarily. These would form new layers around us. Some would stay longer than others. Sometimes new discoveries would make some of our deeper layers obsolete, and we would be able to replace them, modifying how we fit, perhaps in small ways, and occasionally in very large ways.
We've known for a long time that the puzzle was dynamic - just when we thought we knew what the Big Picture was going to look like, some discovery or invention would be made sending ripple effects through the entire structure, at times obliterating previous predictions of where the Big Picture was going. It was a fascinating thing to watch unfold - at least for those of us lucky enough to have already found decent seats in the gallery, assuming we could keep them.