This I Believe

Mary - Montrose, Colorado
Entered on September 14, 2006

This I Believe

I believe in mystery. I believe in the alluring power of the unanswered, the yet-to-be answered, and the unanswerable question. I believe in the seductiveness of the unknown.

Growing up I read The Denver Post motto, “There is no hope for the satisfied mind.” It pleased my heart. Like any child, I wanted to know. I read voraciously to find answers. I drew pictures to learn contours, shadows, substance. I tried my own small chemistry experiments to see what fizzed and what fizzled. I played at puzzles to have the satisfaction of solution or the spur of mystification.

For spur they are—the uncharted, the undiscovered, the unsolved. The unknown prods and tantalizes the intellect.

We need questions more than we need answers. Questions are provocations to seek new knowledge, which in turn lead to new questions.

Children ask questions as easily as they breath. “Why is the sky blue?” “What does God eat?” “May I have a cookie?” “Who are you?” They use questions to seek their place in the world.

Adults often lose the ability to ask adept questions. It takes time, space, serenity to think, to formulate questions clearly and effectively. Fast-paced living leaves little time to give form to questions. The way in which we ask a question may open doors to discovery or limit the ways in which an answer can be given.

To live with mystery—any mystery—is to cultivate the ability to be comfortable with ambiguity. Not all questions have answers. Some answers lead only to more questions. And some answers, once thought inviolable, are later found to be incomplete. Nietzsche put it “One must feel the chaos within to give birth to a dancing star.”

Science is propelled by mystery. I remember the rapt wonder of a university biology professor holding a brain cupped lightly in his hands, sharing with students this folded, wrinkled, pink marvel of life and reason.

Now when my son-in-law, a neurobiologist, spends long hours in the lab working to crack the mysteries of epilepsy, I am reminded of that professor. He, who had seen hundreds, perhaps thousands of brains, still stood, holding in awe, a handful mystery, mystery that offers lifetimes of discovery.

Science, mathematics, literature, politics, psychology are all driven by mystery. We use questions to discern and shape our world.

And there is also faith, the matchless mystery. I believe in a holy sovereign who prods us to inquire, clarify, unlock, and examine ultimate concerns. My faith invites me to see the struggles with fear and evil as my time to seek solutions, to look beyond government, science, and psychology for answers that may build a world of compassion and community.

There will always be more to learn about this ultimate mystery, but as I love the questions now, I will gradually live my way into some of the answers.

Some puzzles have no solutions. Some questions have only today’s answers. Some conundrums remain enigmas. Yet, it doesn’t matter because whether vast and cosmic, deep and personal, microscopic and tantalizing, I believe in the wonder of possibility, the possibility of discovery, the exultation of mystery.