Saturday, March 23, 2013

Embracing Mystery

I saw a status on Facebook that read, “Please grab a book you are reading off the back of your toilet or nightstand. Turn to page 23 and type the third sentence from that page as a comment below.” I was intrigued.

I am a voracious reader. Books live everywhere in my house, so I grabbed the nearest one from my bedroom dresser and opened up to page 23. The line read, “There is no knowing where you are headed.” And I thought, how uncanny. How absolutely true. None of us know where we are headed. As much as we try to divine our way, we will never know where our path is taking us in life. This can be quite exhilarating for some and terribly frightening for others. Mystery can be our constant companion and friend, or it can haunt us to no end.

In an age where information is literally at our fingertips, its immediate accessibility has spoiled us. We forget to pause and enjoy the process of discovery. All the mystery is taken out of the equation. Then we wonder why we feel so disconnected from things that matter. What we need to do is to celebrate the unknown and what is has to offer. We need to reclaim our reverence for mystery. We need to be able to live with our questions, letting them incubate within us, so that we can someday live our way into the answers as our inner readiness allows. Making peace with unanswered or unanswerable questions allows us to embrace that which we do not understand with the inner knowing that the answers will come in their own time. This is our “gap insurance” between the known and the unknowns. Sometimes we just aren’t ready for the answers; we must trust and accept the process in all of its mystery.

So many aspects of life are mysteries even with all the information available to us. Both science and religion have offered explanations, yet answers continue to elude us. I am reminded of a story from Eduardo Galeano’s book Walking Words. In an effort to impart the value of mystery, a young couple baptized their son on the coast. In it, he writes: “The baptism taught him what was sacred. They gave him a seashell: ‘So you will learn to love the water.’ They opened a cage and let a bird go free: ‘So you’ll learn to love the air.’ They gave him a geranium: ‘So you’ll learn to love the earth.’ And they gave him a little bottle sealed up tight: ‘Don’t ever, ever open it. So you’ll learn to love mystery.’” The more we learn to relish mystery, the more meaning we can draw into our lives. May we approach it with the reverence it deserves, and may we find peace despite the absence of clarity. We may never know where we are headed, but rest assured, we will get there.

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