Wednesday, December 9, 2009

How to Accept a Mystery

Have you ever noticed how many unexplained things there are in life? We spend a lot of our lives scratching our heads, especially when things blindside us. Whether it’s death, innocent suffering, the snub of a friend, or just how we feel, mysteries are the everyday life occurrences we often stress too much about.

There are even light-hearted mysteries. I’ve recently become re-familiarised with a rather innocuous mystery: technical report-writing. Though it is a part of my job I loath it because it’s still a mystery—what to put into it, what to leave out, the order… all these things contribute to my report-writing mystery.

This is a most important fact of life—something for us all to learn: it’s the fact of the mystery left unsolved; in a word, accepted. We’re far better off attributing a ‘condition of pure mystery’ to people, events, circumstances and situations we don’t understand than attributing the very wrong thing—which is a huge temptation we must resist.

Attributing the wrong thing is usually caused by taking too serious a note of the first (or fifth or tenth) thing that pops into our heads i.e. we either jump directly to a conclusion or we muse deeply about the issue (remember, it’s still a mystery) and still make a wrong assessment—it’s just a more elaborate, more “reasoned” ‘jumping to the conclusion.’

And the truth is, there are vast quantities of mysteries in everyday life; why would we be perturbed if we can’t reason everything... yet many people set themselves on doing this very thing, to their almost constant frustration.

We can only know what we can know. Our perception is a drastically limited thing. It’s one-dimensional and it’s limited by time and mood and a myriad of other factors engrained in the concept of ‘present time.’ For instance, we don’t get the benefit of hindsight until well after the event—often when it’s too late. And then the real key limitation is all the other factors beyond our simple selves. We can control none of it.

We can only really rate those absolutely concrete things we observe in the matters of life that are said and done—that’s all.

So, how do we accept a mystery? Well, we expect it, that’s how. When they come, we recognise them. We’re not confused or offended by them, tempted to judge them. Unexplained things can therefore “be” before us without us needing to adjudge them.

Sure, there are times when we must adjudicate because it’s our defined role. These times we’re being paid to unravel the mystery (or there’s an expectation toward same)—we’ve been determined as the skilled, knowledgeable and experienced people to do it.

At other times, particularly in relationships or in the matter of certain events, we’re best to simply observe and keep an open mind without falling for the temptation of making attributions and decisions half-cocked.

If we can learn this craft of leaving the mystery packages of life wrapped, what mistakes, errors of judgment and wasted time we might potentially save ourselves, not to mention the apologies we have to extend to people when we’re found to be almost-routinely wrong.

And, of course, there’s the tender sense of peace that abides for us in our common acceptance of what was never designed to be known.

Hasten the day when we blissfully realise; some things will forever remain mysteries.

© 2009 S. J. Wickham.

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