Ok, last time, I wrote about my recent re-fascination with the Amelia Earhart mystery. Now I want to dive a little deeper into why this and other mysteries call us to them.
When I was young, I think I read every Hardy Boys book that had come out at the time. Later, I graduated to more adult mysteries, James Bond and the like. Over time my tastes migrated to non-fiction and I read little fiction….but when I did, it generally was a mystery book. Last year, when my dog Harmony died, I didn’t feel like reading….even fiction….but to pass the time, I listened to audiobooks. I discovered the Harry Bosch character that is one of the series Michael Connelly writes. I think I have listened to all of his audiobooks….thank you to my local library for making that possible!
Why the fascination with mysteries? They show up in so much of our popular fiction…but mysteries can be “true” stories that we want to “solve”. I know that I ate up the following Netflix series over the past few years: Making a Murderer, The Keepers, Evil Genius and The Staircase. (Side note: tooling through your Netflix viewing history can be an interesting trip down memory lane.)
And, beyond that are the explorations into bigger “worldly” mysteries…..Amelia Earhart…..or the JFK assassination….aliens and UFOs…crop circles….the Bermuda Triangle….all of these and many others have taken some of my time at one point in my life.
But the question is why do we love a mystery? What is it about the unknown that calls us to delve in to these subjects…fiction or non-fiction….big or small……and seek to understand what is happening?
Well there are some obvious reasons for our interest…..and maybe there are some deeper ones as well…..
Obviously, on some level, we simply “enjoy it”. It’s fun. It entertains us, brings us pleasure….
Or, we might consider that there is something innately within humans that seeks to understand things…when something is outside our grasp, we explore it until we understand it. It is sort of like a mental piece of food stuck in our teeth that bothers us and distracts us until we can resolve the matter and move on. One might argue that it served our evolution to figure things out and pass what we learned on to others. Those who got a better handle on the world were obviously “a better fit for the environment”.
To that end, we could consider that every scientific exploration is simply us humans attempting to solve a mystery. Every scientific discovery adds to the sum total of human knowledge and reduces just a bit those things “we don’t know”.
Many of such scientific findings are working towards deeper questions…but for the most part they are directed towards figuring out how the material world works. But there are other, deeper questions in my opinion. Such questions include….why are we here? why does everything exist? what is consciousness? where do we go when we die?…..and others that are similar.
I know that as much worldly success as I have had….I have always felt that there were bigger issues for me to grapple with….more important things to pursue. My jump from working as a governmental leader into becoming a spiritual writer and teacher were driven by such questions.
Yet, as much as I felt that I have learned through my spiritual exploration….there are still those bigger mysteries out there calling me. Harmony’s death and my grief (written about last year) opened me again to wondering about what happens after our time here. Do we simply stop existing? Do we go on outside our bodies? Do we return in form here again? And, no matter what those answers are….there is always the underlying issue of…. why am I conscious? Who am I really? Why does the world or this person I call myself even exist?
Each day, we go about our affairs putting these bigger questions out of mind as we function in “the real world” ….whatever that is. We get up, we eat, we get dressed, we go to work, we play, we read, we entertain ourselves, we interact with others, we tell ourselves that all of this stuff we are doing is important….but is it? Depending upon the answer to those bigger questions, we could see that all of that “doing” is not really that important in the big scheme of things. Maybe we fear that realization.
We live each day in the mystery of our life. The mysteries we explore in the world can be seen as surrogates for the real mystery.
The latest issue of Parabola magazine contains an article about the spiritual teacher Ram Dass. In it, his co-author Mirabai Bush writes that Ram Dass’ cat has died and both of them are dealing with the death. Even though so many people have turned to Dass for spiritual guidance and received help from him, the article shows that even such individuals can be caught in the bigger questions of life. Even the wisest person realizes their own ignorance. Bush finds Dass reading a book on near death experiences…seeking his own answers.
Dass says, “I think it’s like finally coming home, home to an old friend who had always known me and who loved me completely. It will be where I am supposed to be at last.”
As great and as wonderful the gift of our lives are, our very existence here and now and our future existence after we shed these fleshy bodies are mysteries that are imbedded in all that do. Sometimes we love these other mysteries, be they fictional “who done its” or real life “things of the unknown” because on some level we realize our whole life is a mystery waiting to be solved.