December 21, 2004

An Age of Mystery

Our culture is fascinated by mystery. I know I talked about this a bit in my last post, but I think it's something worth exploring. What is mystery? It's the unexplored, the stuff we don't know, it's the unexplainable.

Previously, Americans were obsessed with factualism - I know the answer and that's that. In their culture, especially in the church, this translated into a somewhat legalistic framework, complete with diagrams and slogans. But now, you can see the fascination with mystery in every aspect of American postmodernist culture; in science, in art, and in society. Modernist science was about having your hypothesis proven right, and so many scientists would make up information to make their data fit their thesis. These days, this has changed. Scientists have become (or are becoming) more concerned with what the data SAYS and formulating their hypothesis around it. My guess is that they realized it was easier to just tell what their experiements said than try to make up information and stick to it.

But science is ALL about exploration. It's about finding out the stuff we don't know - NASA and the space station, neurobiologists and brain research, the human genome project, deep space exploration, chaos theory, chemical engineering, and quantum physics, just to name a few. It's about revealing mystery.

I read a blog today by a guy - a Jesus-follower - who said he worried about the US putting funds into NASA and the waste that happens. There was a response from one of his friends that said that he shouldn't be so critical, that exploring the vastness of creation was a good thing to fuel humility in the face of our small-ness. I tend to agree - I find that the more science reveals about the complexity (irreduceable complexity, you might say) of the universe, the more in awe I stand at the knife-edge upon which the universe sits, the equilibrium it must maintain for life to exist. I am amazed by the precision by which it must be maintained - and all of this is God's fault. It's incredible! If the earth wobbles just a little bit, we all go boom. If we were just a little closer or a little farther from the sun, we'd be either fried or frozen (respectively).

In postmodern art, you can see how mystery is a big element - just listen to Caedmon Call's "Beautiful Mystery" and you'll get the picture, or listen to anything by David Crowder or Chris Tomlin. In physical expression, in dance and in painting, the newest uses of color and texture and movement all convey a sense of mystery, that the artwork isn't revealing all that it's telling. In plays and movies, there is mystery in plot lines, in the conflict that arises, in the way that the play resolves - or doesn't.

This age is an age of mystery, of questions - it's ok to not know the outcome, because it's more enchanting that way. God is mysterious, and I think sometimes He likes it that way. Humility is what happens if one is honest in the face of the vast amount of stuff they don't know. If the postmoderns got anything right, that's what it would be.

1 comment:

Jutz said...

mystery is good! do not fear the tremendum.