Embracing Mystery

When I see a man or a woman alone, he or she looks mysterious to me, which is only to say that for a moment I see another human being clearly.

Marilynne Robinson
When I Was a Child I Read Books

Ask the people who know me best, and they’ll tell you: I overthink everything. In fact, I’m socially crippled by my tendency to analyze every nuance, word, and measurable inflection of my conversations with people. On my best days, I can laugh off this annoying habit – so do my friends, thankfully – but overanalysis colors my inner life, as well. I’ve constructed a thorough ideology over the years. The problem is, if I’m not careful, anything that doesn’t fit within that ideology gets subconsciously rejected.

Because I’ve invested so much passionate thought into my worldview, there are times when I cling to it too tightly. For example, I sometimes catch myself caring more about my ideas about God than God Himself. Ouch. I think this is inevitable; I’m desperate to make sense of myself and the world around me. I’m desperate to understand. Who isn’t? But even when I stand on the shoulders of my favorite giants (i.e. the many writers and thinkers who have helped me shape my ideas/ideals since adolescence), I can only see so far.

That fact used to frustrate me to no end. Over the years, I’ve slowly started to accept it and even find comfort in it.

Scientists are still trying to complete a “theory of everything”, which they believe will finally explain… well, everything. A funny notion. As Marilynne Robinson points out in her essay “Cosmology” (from When I Was a Child I Read Books), explanation necessarily involves an account of the intention behind something. Yet science actively avoids the question of whether or not the universe is intentional. How, then, can it propose to unearth any kind of real universal meaning? Science observes and describes. It tells us how, not why. No matter how much we discover about ourselves and the universe on a scientific level, the big questions posed by philosophy and religion throughout the centuries will always remain unanswerable. Evidentialism can’t begin to address them.

Again, quoting “Cosmology”:

We have not escaped, nor have we in any sense diminished, the mystery of our existence. We have only rejected any language that would seem to acknowledge it.

I want to reclaim the language that acknowledges mystery. I want to affirm the universe in all its complexity, and my own frustrating inscrutability as a human being. Who can explain me? I certainly can’t.

I’m tired of oversimplification. My brain is exhausted from years of trying to break down The Universe As I Know It into terms I can comprehend. These days, I’m doing my best to keep my ideology an organic, growing thing, something that has room for new ideas and new perspectives, something capable of evolving without losing its basic makeup. Because nothing about the universe is simple. Nothing about me is simple. And most certainly, nothing about God is simple.

People keep splitting the quark down into smaller and smaller components. God keeps shattering my constructs of Him. I’m used to it by now. May as well embrace it.

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