Monday, April 16, 2012


1 a : a religious truth that one can know only by revelation and cannot fully understand

Saturday evening I met with a group of friends to discuss a book that could have been magical and mysterious, but wasn't.  The book was called Faery Tale and it recounted a young woman's attempt to prove the existence of faeries.  We talked about why the book fell short - why it's subtitle (One Woman's Search for Enchantment in a Modern World) was better than the entire content within its pages, how this was surely a book sold based on an idea, not a manuscript and how the author confused using this trip to grieve her father versus using this trip to flee her grief. 

And then our talk turned to the author's skepticism that she never fully moved past.  She wanted oh so badly to believe there was more than the eye could see, but as the reader I never felt like she truly opened herself up to mystery.  We talked about our own experiences that transcend rational explanation - ghosts appearing bedside, dreams with verbal warnings, impressions of danger for family members, inexplicable images associated with a friend that become clear later.  There is clearly mystery in this world and we are far too ready to explain it away with rationality.

Concurrent with reading this book, I started Richard Rohr's new book Falling Upward.  In this book, he talks about two halves of life.  The first is spent strengthening and building the ego.  During this phase, we learn our strengths, use them to build safety and security for ourselves and spend time and energy on the structure, successes and accomplishments of our lives.  Yet this phase is meant to point us to the second half of life.  Because during the second half of life, we see that the first half of life was necessary, but simplified.  We see that our strengths, our accomplishments, our possessions are worth less than the intangible things in life.  During the second half of life, we worry less about our relative importance and more about living in a space that makes room for contradictions, complexities and mystery.

I haven't finished the book.  Partly because I had to stop reading it in order to finish Faery Tale for book club.  Partly because I found myself struck by the fact that I've not lived my first half of life in the way Rohr outlines.  Where does that leave me?  If I didn't devote energy to building the ego, must I go back to do that before living fully in the second half of life?  Because I do long to get there.  I long to embrace mystery, to hold it and ponder it, to grasp what I can and let go of the rest.  I long to be someone who shares her experiences without regard to whether doing so will advance my own efforts or build me up in the eyes of someone else.  I long to look at others with compassion for who they are, rather than fear of what they might think of me.

My 7 year is an avid reader of mysteries right now.  Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, the Boxcar Children, the Bobbsey Twins and Encyclopedia Brown are her constant companions.  When her sisters or I suggest a new book, K will ask us, "Is it a mystery?  Because I like mysteries."  I think she might be on to something.  I think there's something about seeking to explain the inexplicable that appeals to our very nature.  And while the books she reads try to solve the mysteries encountered, K's 7 year old mind is perfectly content to let some things be unsolved mysteries.  She is happy to let magic seep into her life, her heart and her mind.

I think I could learn something from my daughter.  I could learn to solve the mysteries that are meant to be clear and learn to not just accept, but revel in, the parts of life that will always be shrouded in mystery.

1 comment:

John and Kendra said...

Great post, Shannon.'s an under-appreciated idea/value in our culture. I love how Rohr is constantly pointing his readers to the paradox in Christs' messages. We have more questions and fewer answers as we move through this life. I enjoyed chatting with you a bit on Sunday....had to hurry to the library today for #6 and #7 Nancy Drew. And a new rule, "no reading at dinner!". :)