January 24, 2017
Law Two: There Will Be Mysteries
What is the difference between a mystery and something that we simply do not know? We might say that unknowns are things that we have not yet learned, experienced, or grasped; while, mysteries are, by definition, that which cannot be fully understood or explained. The world is full of both kinds.
With that said, this doesn’t mean that there is no reason or purpose for what is unknowable. Instead, it just means that whatever is driving these mysteries is beyond our comprehension—and their value is not necessarily in understanding them, but rather in acknowledging that they need not be understood in order to be useful.
Think, for example, of the mysteries of sleep and dreaming—two things that most of us do every day. We don’t need to “understand” either one of them in order to participate in them and experience their benefits. After all, have we ever heard someone say, “I had this dream last night and it totally made sense?”
Probably not. Still, we know that sleep is essential to life, and dreaming is an essential part of sleep.
In fact, it seems that the most essential part of what we experience in sleep is its mystery, and without it…it wouldn’t be sleep at all, it would be something else.
This is all a way of saying that if we were to remove the mystery from certain elements of our lives we would be, fundamentally, removing the entire thing from our lives.
And, getting clear about this Law of Life is important because it allows us to put our energy in places where it is better served, and it also allows us to ask better, more productive questions. Questions that move us out of control and into acceptance and pro-activeness.
When we do this, we can stop asking, “What is this all about?” And, we can begin asking, “How can I use this in my life, where is its value?”
Think about it, we don’t need to understand how our solar system came to be in order to navigate by its stars. We need not know how an ocean works to swim in it and enjoy its waters. We don’t have to uncover someone’s entire personal history to engage in a productive conversation with them. Or, imagine if we said, “I am not going to go to sleep until I understand what sleep is.” It sounds absurd, right?
Nevertheless, when we are in a tough spot in life we can still get caught in the trap of asking the philosophical question, “Why is this happening to me?” (which is likely unknowable) instead of “What is the lesson here?”
Accepting, up front, that there will be mysteries frees us from the exhausting effort of trying to eliminate what is unknowable from our lives and allows us to embrace it. We can give ourselves permission to step into life’s mysteries. Which, a lot of times, opens up an opportunity to make use of what is right there in front of us, even if we cannot explain it or how it got there.
Remember, we ourselves are still mysterious. After all, we don’t even know (seemingly) big things like the exact number of cells that make up the human body. It seems like such a thing should be quantifiable, right? Especially with the technological advances we’ve all seen in our lifetime. However, it’s not so much a question of technology, but rather one of definition. That is, the scientific community is still asking, “Where, exactly, does the body begin and end, and which parts should and should not be counted?” Do we include things like saliva, dead skin cells, gut bacteria, tears, hair, mineral deposits, water being stored in the body, and the ephemeral secretions of our glands? Those qualities alone make up billions, if not trillions of cells and to include or exclude them skews the numbers.
So, a question we can all ask is this: If we cannot quantify, define, or even properly identify the very thing that keeps alive—a human body—how much can we hope to agree on when it comes to the universe at large, the meaning of life, or the sound of one hand clapping?
The value, after all, in such inquiry is not so much in the answer but in the mystery of it and in what is revealed about ourselves as we live with such unknowableness.
Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.
Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com
His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world. He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.