Thursday, August 28, 2008

On Mystery

Mystery is a state of not knowing the answer to some question after a certain amount of effort in thinking about it.  Unlike not understanding fractions, mysteries involve curiosity, a sense of wonder, and a desire to know despite the hindrances.

In any sufficiently complex system, there will always be an element of mystery given our limited capacity to understand the world around us.  Science holds plenty of mystery: What was the universe like just after the Big Bang?  What did the beginnings of life on earth look like?  How much of one's personality is nature versus nurture? Confronted by these mysteries and others, the components of awe and a desire to know fuel scientists' zeal in pursuing scientific inquiry.  Just as in any good detective novel, the fact that something is a mystery today does not imply that careful investigation will not remove the cloak to reveal the hidden knowledge.

In spiritual matters, some people seem to relish in mystery: They are perfectly content not to know and even enjoy the hiddenness of the knowledge, possibly because it fulfills a longing in their hearts to know that something bigger than themselves exists.  I, however, view spiritual mysteries as those in science: They beg to be solved.  Now, this is not to suggest that all spiritual mysteries are solvable---God is certainly a complex system.  Indeed, sometimes, I may decide after careful reflection that no matter how much more I might think about an issue, the available data are simply insufficient to decide one way or another, and I become contentedly agnostic on that point.  However in general, I see the challenge of spiritual mystery as an invitation to delve deeper in my understanding of God so that with each mystery unveiled, I can marvel at his wondrous majesty.

No comments: