The Gift of Mystery
We live in a culture that loves to conquer mysteries. For us modern folks, the unexplainable is simply a lock to be picked, a code to be cracked, a puzzle to be figured out. But what if mystery isn’t just something to solve? What if it’s also something to be listened to?
This is the lesser recognized call of our faith. “Yes,” it says, “Stay skeptical, continue to question and seek answers. But at the same time, leave space for life to speak!” One of the most elegant articulations of this comes from the poet Mary Oliver. In her beloved poem, Wild Geese, she writes,
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
Oliver’s call to listen for life’s mysterious announcements implies a letting go. Mystery is funny this way. You can’t make it speak. Indeed, often the more you pursue the meaning of life’s mysteries; the more distant it becomes. If we want mystery to speak, it seems we have to be willing to put down the pursuit and open ourselves to being caught off guard.UU humanist minister and poet, David Breeden, captures this beautifully when he writes,
I dug and dug
Deeper into the earth
Looking for blue heaven
On piles of dust rising
And fell into the sky
Slipping, and then falling into the sky. Is there a better way to describe our dance with mystery? Isn’t this what all the great mystics have been trying to tell us from the start? That sitting at the heart of mystery is not the unknown, but unity. We fall into the mysterious oneness of life and then it falls into us. Its voice whispers, “I am you and you are me.” Simply put, mystery doesn’t put up barriers; it dissolves them. Haven’t all of us faced the wonder and mystery of a sunset, the stars, a baby’s first cry or a lover’s wet kiss and thought to ourselves, “My God, who I am does not end at the barrier of my skin!”
And it’s not just words of connectedness, but comfort too. We find ourselves crushed by the weight of the world, so we take a walk in the woods, watch the waves kindly caress the shore, stare into the night sky or stumble on the smile of a stranger. And often, but not always, we hear the world gently sing, “It will be ok. In fact, it is all already ok!” UU minister, Angela Herrera, puts it this way,
You bring yourself before the sacred, before the holy,
before what is ultimate and bigger than your lone life…
You stand at the edge of mystery…
Meanwhile, the armful of worries you brought to the edge of mystery
have fluttered to your feet.
So friends, this month, let’s let mystery work its magic. Let’s allow ourselves to fall in and be opened up. Let’s slip into the sky and let it slip into us. Let’s set the sleuthing down, for just a moment, and simply listen.
We can’t wait to hear what the world whispers back.