Embracing the Mystery
In the epigram for his (in)famously frightening novel, Pet Sematary, Stephen said: “Death is a mystery, and burial is a secret.” Yet in our age of hyper media saturation, this does not seem to be so. King wrote those words long before the Internet connected the darkest corners of the planet, before there was a YouTube showing us:
The hanging of Saddam Hussein.
The beating and humiliation of Mohammar Qaddafi.
Before someone paid $500,000 for a photo of Whitney Houston’s body lying in its casket. Before the Los Angeles County coroner released Ms. Houston’s autopsy report to the pubic.
It seems that death is no longer a mystery, nor is a burial a secret. If I’m honest, I’m part of the problem—because I want to know. Part of this is surely temperament, of taking a sort of perverse fascination in these sordid details, of my flesh wanting no mysteries.
Not even in death.
The other part is the zeitgeist—the spirit of the age—a prevailing scientific mindset that wants to dispense with mysteries altogether. We’ve seen the farthest flung reaches of the universe, so what’s a dead body? We can discuss in great clinical detail how a life is formed, so what’s the big deal of satiating ourselves on the gory details of a life’s end?
(Is it possible that this knowledge damages our interior lives? In some way deadens us to life’s sanctity?)
This curiosity is endemic to our species: we want to know. And this wanting is what got us into so much trouble in that long ago place called the Garden. Because our forebears wanted to know, they lost the most intimate fellowship with God any in our race have ever known.
I know in my heart that allowing some mystery in my life would be a balm for my soul, but it is hard to achieve: because I want to know. Yet even God says “For now we see as through a glass darkly…” The ready availability of even the basest of details means it requires the volitional on my part to turn from the knowing towards the unknown. I have to choose overlook, to willfully ignore some things for the good of my soul.
Yet my flesh wants no mysteries, but my soul longs for them. Even in this age of hyper-transparency, not everything should, nor need, be disclosed. As Adam and Eve learned there is such a thing as too much information.
I fear it is a dichotomy that won’t be resolved until I, too shuffle off this mortal coil.
What do you do to engender a sense of holy, hushed awe in your life? What turns are you making towards the unknowing?
He lives with his family in the Arizona desert.
The jury is still out on the effect the sun has had on his brain.