☆ Leaving Room For Mystery

Stave Church DragonThis post is a bit unusual for me – apologies if it offends you –  but I found my mind wandering after I re-read this letter that the Archbishop Of Canterbury sent in reply to a letter from a six-year-old asking “To God, How did you get invented?” I do recommend reading it.

There are so many ways to answer. Some are angry and negative; some are complex and technical; some are condescending; some are trite. This one seems to me to be a perfectly tuned answer, respecting the unknowable mystery of the subject, the trusting simplicity of the questioner and indeed the scepticism to the facilitator. The result encourages reflection and leaves room for mystery.

Leaving room for mystery is one of the things I feel the world lacks at the moment. Everyone wants precise answers to every question, with uncertainties eliminated. It’s possible to do that with simple, objective questions, but once the system we’re considering gets complex it’s entirely possible it will become unknowable to a single mind. Reductionism a great tool, as long as the system still works once it’s been reduced.

I’ve never been a proponent of a “god is in the gaps” approach of reifying the unknown, but all the same there are things that are beyond simplification, which have to be taken as a whole and accepted on the basis of experience rather than analysis. That was one of the conclusions for me after my direct/indirect causality essay. It seems to me that a “fundamentalist” is actually someone who refuses to do that, insisting instead on using the reductionist tools that worked on the easy problems and discarding the parts of the complex problem that don’t respond to them.

Doing that breaks things. The real world is deliciously complex, and there will always be mysteries – systems too complex for us to analyse. It seems to me that one of the keys to maturing is learning to identify those systems and leave room for them to be mysteries, without discarding the rest of rational life.

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