As a writer, I do a lot of reading. As one who enjoys learning about how others think, I read a lot of different view points on a variety of topics. One thing I have come to notice is that people generally either want things clearly defined and understood in order to accept it as true, or they enjoy the mystery of not knowing and do not want anyone to remove that mystery even for the sake of truth. Some actually see truth as less important than the wonder of not knowing. A few see the benefits of both and understand that the grandeur of wonder far exceeds any defining knowledge we may have. Still sometimes wonder and mysteries are lost when knowledge is gained.
I recently read an opinion piece where someone was advocating that they did not wish to see the world through science nor religion because they wanted the mystery of the world kept alive. I thought this interesting because typically one chooses either a scientific or a religious approach. Few realize the two can work in tandem, but some are now seeing them both as instruments of modernism and rejecting them as such.
In a manner of speaking, I agree that religion and science can both attempt to be so defining that one feels the wonder sucked right out of their soul. Yesterday as a surprise snow fell, I was at first filled with wonder as I felt the joy of a child peaking out the window on a snow filled morning. Then thoughts arrested my attention of the condition of the roads and what things I might not be able to do. I thought of what the salt on the roads would do to the car. Then I started wishing I had no such knowledge of impediments to safety and other adverse affects of snow. It had muddled my affections for the winter wonder. I sought to push these unwanted thoughts from my mind and enjoy the soft white snow atop the bare tree branches.
There is a desire resonate within us for wonder, mystery, intrigue. We actually enjoy, at times, not knowing how things work, because we want to experience a magical nature. We reminisce of the days where we watched for Santa’s sleigh. We wish for the days when we had no cares about what things cost as we anticipated gifts under the Christmas tree.
The greater the knowledge the more the responsibly and the less we feel we have yet to know. However, it is wisdom to know that no matter how much knowledge we have we are far from knowing even a fraction of what can be known. Still knowledge is not something that can be measured by how many books it can fill for there is a large element that cannot be fully communicated by words on a page.
The best transcript of what snow looks like including personal accounts of what it is like to see and feel it will do little to bring real knowledge to someone who has never experienced it. The same can be said for a sunrise over the ocean or seeing mountains for the first time. The written transcript of an eye witness cannot communicate its grandeur. Even a most excellent photograph or painting could never do it justice. Copies and shadows of the real will never produce the mystery and wonder of the real thing.
We may think that knowing all about something robs us of the mystery and wonder of its actual substance, but it does not. We can allow it to at times, but it doesn’t have to. For instance, I enjoy theology immensely. Some find such a study as something that detracts from the splendor of God, but for me I see how much greater He is then the theology about Him. The more I stretch my intellectual understanding the more mystery explodes in my heart.
I think that religion as it is typically known often reduces God to its doctrines just as science can reduce nature to its theories. But neither really have this power for nature is greater than the science about it, and God is much greater than the doctrines concerning Him. When doctrines have become more vital than personal encounters with God, religion has taken shape, but where personal life with God enlightens towards a theological understanding religion has no hold.
I think that knowledge and mystery do not need to be opposites, but rather are different sides of the same coin. This is true whether we are talking about science and nature or theology and God. It’s a matter of perception and having tangible contact with what is substantially real whether seen or unseen.