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Attributed to Frans Pourbus, the Younger:
Profile Portrait of a Lady (1569 - 1622)

"Just let that mystery be."

Because belongs to that august class of words which carry no specific meaning. It seems to mostly play the role of placeholder, standing in for some more substantial explanation. It pretends to explain something, but utterly fails, except in omission. It seems to say, "Don't ask. I cannot tell," more of a brush-off, really. In the absence of a root cause, just say, "Because," just because.

Psychologists insist that we become more or less the sum total of our explanatory stories.
Who would I have to become to even doubt this assertion? Not all explanations, though, seem to be created equal. Some seem to adequately describe some action while others seem most notable for what they're lacking. A life built upon a foundation of endless Becausing seems essentially baseless, suspended. It seems easy to feel a victim if one's backstory's largely anchored in Becausing. Because Becauses steal whatever agency the victimized protagonist might have possessed, trading a reliable cow for perhaps less than a pocketful of unproven magic beans. Becausing provides a brushoff in lieu of an explanation. Whatever mystery asked the question remains untouched by the judicious or casual application of another Becausing.

It's most likely self-inflicted damage when we firmly believe that there should be a coherent explanatory story behind an action. We innocently ask our Whys, disclosing our belief in the necessary existence of some reasonable backstory, as if we were merely rational beings and therefore always, always, always acting with deliberate intentions. I'd argue that we mostly just bumble around, not clearly considering our options, not first constructing a reason for acting. We might just as well have been born amoebas for all the mindfulness we usually employ. This explanatory story might explain why we so often employ the utterly vacuous Becausing when asked for our explanatory story. The pop quiz Why? caught us without any other defense: Because, just because.

I often amaze myself with the pretzel-like knots in which I manage to entangle myself. To think these mostly come from my own hand only amplifies my admiration for my clever craftsmanship. I might be a master at the vacuous explanation, especially when explaining to myself, especially when concocting my own story about my own private motives. I maybe should have long ago learned the utter lack of utility the Why? question carries. Almost nobody ever knows why, and we should all have come to understand this fact by now. Since so few ever understand why, we might be better off simply avoiding asking. When applied to some past event, why carries no magic lineament capable of fixing what's finished. It won't undo whatever was previously cast. Maybe we believe that we can use the answer to avoid a once in a lifetime occurrence when it comes around to get us again.

So, what am I saying? I seemed to have been complaining about how hollow our Becausing seems. I think the underlying difficulty of which I complain might not be Becausing's native vacuity, but that we do not always see how hollowing it proves to be. We too easily accept the Becausing in lieu of an actual explanatory story, rather than interpret the possible brush-off as something different. It's precisely not the explanatory story. It explains nothing. It perhaps only amplifies the mystery. Asking why? a dozen times will likely not improve the response. Worse case, it might goad the responder into making up some coherent-seeming backstory just to get the inquisitor off his butt. Becausing might be the best our contestant could bring to their game that day. Just let that mystery be.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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