Embracing the Mystery
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” –Albert Einstein
Whenever my friends and I go hiking we don’t like to hike on the paths. Most recently, hypothetically of course, we managed to find a hole in a fence that we crawled under to begin our hike. I remember talking to my friend Jesse halfway up the mountain about how we were probably the first people to be in that particular spot in a really long time since it was fenced off and everything. It was a cool thought, being on the middle of a mountain and finding your own way to the top as opposed to following a path to the top. While following a path is good to a certain degree, isn’t it a bit more fun to find your own way there?
I think that you’ll find stories all over the Bible of God not telling people where to go or how to get there, instead letting them find their own way there. I like the fact that God doesn’t just move us around like action figures but He allows us to make our own choices. We usually end up shooting ourselves in the foot and making a lot of mistakes in the process, but I have found that it is in these mistakes that life is lived best. I seem to learn more about myself in the process of not knowing what I am doing than I actually do when the process is finished. For example, I learned more about my habits and writing abilities in the process of writing a book rather than the finished product of having written a book.
We all live within a mystery. We all have no idea what is going on with the world as it continues to spin on its axis, we have no clue what is going to happen next, and we have no clue whether or not this God that we are following is really there—it is all a mystery. There are basically two kinds of ways to deal with mystery: you can try to solve it or you can learn to embrace it and live inside of it. Jesse and I both really love to watch the TV show “LOST” and it is about as mysterious as you can get. But Jesse and I both watch the show differently, at the end of each episode my mind is going 1000 different directions and I am trying to theorize what is going to happen next while Jesse is thinking about what just happened. I am trying to solve while he is trying to digest. The worst part is that all my theories end up being proved wrong within a matter of episodes, but Jesse is still enjoying what is happening. I think that I live my life like this to a certain degree as well—I am always trying to solve the next step instead of enjoying the moment. I am trying to solve the mysteries of the universe and I am missing out on what is happening in the here and now.
Out of mystery sparks creativity. Half the fun of creating is the mystery of not knowing what is happening, if art were inspired by fact then we’d have paintings hanging up in museums of math equations and open encyclopedias instead of the mysterious swirls of paint. It would be like following recipes your entire life instead of experimenting with your own ideas. It would be like following paths your whole life instead of crawling under fences to find your own way.
There is a really great story in the Bible about a kid named Joseph, you know, the guy with the colorful robe. He has a dream that one day his brothers will all bow down to him. (Destination) But instead of having some trip to power where everything is handed to him, God has a different idea.
He’s thrown in a well by his jealous brothers, sold into Egyptian slavery, accused of sleeping with his master’s wife, and was thrown into prison. While he was in prison, he interpreted dreams for the cupbearer of the pharaoh, saying that he will be freed. Once the cupbearer was freed, he forgot all about Joseph for two years until the pharaoh was having dreams that no one could explain. The cup bearer remembered Joseph in prison and had him interpret the dreams, which the pharaoh believed, and released him out of prison and put Joseph in charge of all of the land of Egypt. Part of the dream that he interpreted was about a famine in the land, and when it happened all of the people came to the pharaoh begging for food, some of those people happened to be Joseph’s brothers. It was then that his brothers finally bowed down to him just as his dream had predicted so many years before.
The thing about Joseph is that God was with him the entire time—at the bottom of the well, in slavery, in prison, and in power. I imagine Joseph spent a lot of time thinking about his dreams and his gift, wondering if he was just crazy or not. He could have spent a lot of time complaining to God that he wasn’t where he was supposed to be, but instead he embraced the mystery of what was happening and write his own story. He had no idea how he was going to get there; he just knew that he would end up there because God was on his side.
Just because the path doesn’t look right doesn’t mean that it is the wrong path. While we may enjoy the facts and the knowledge of knowing, it is in the journey through the mysterious that we often find knowledge more important that the facts themselves. Mystery is a gift. The unknown is a gift. Wandering and wondering is a gift. Embrace it.
Buy my new book, “Definitive Blurs”.