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Paul Gauguin: The Call (1902)

"I just let these EverydayMysteries be …"

The older I grow, the less I seem to know for certain. This outcome surprises me, if only because I naively believed nearer the beginning of my life that I would become, if not older and wiser, at least older and more knowledgable, but this has not been my experience, unless I count stuff I've come to know for certain isn't reliably knowable. So the number of mysteries I juggle has greatly expanded while the number I manage to resolve has plummeted. I'm okay with this state of affairs if only because there seems to be nothing I can do about it other than accept and perhaps revel in it. It's just the way it is.

Earlier in my life, I dabbled with becoming somewhat of a detective, for I'd convinced myself that if I just applied myself, I could come to understand pretty much anything.
I think I can thank my university education for encouraging this attitude. This belief was as bogus as could be, but it pretty much defined one version of me, one which was probably destined to fail as a detective. I now believe that these EverydayMysteries do not exist to give any budding Sherlock Holmes practice. That a mystery unsolved is not necessarily any great tragedy, but just one of the possibilities one faces with dealing with mysteries. I've come to consider compulsive attempts to solve EverydayMysteries as a form of tragedy, even a dysfunction, a common psychological problem I might label Sherlock Holmes Syndrome.

The mystery seems the very foundation of existence. Ask yourself how it happened to be that you, your 'me', managed to come into being, and you'll open a long series of deep and utterly unresolvable mysteries. The simple, everyday connection of sperm and egg relies upon unexplainably random selection, simple principles rendered indecipherable in practice. There is no 'why' to find, no discernible design. The very universe we awaken to find ourselves suspended within also hardly bears explanation. We might one day manage to glimpse, from way over here on its apparent periphery, the very beginning, the so-called creation of this place, the Big Bang, but what will that knowledge resolve? We're unlikely to conclude that "The butler did it," and just leave it at that. The more we come to understand about this universe, it seems the more questions, the more mysteries, we spawn. I might reasonably conclude that we will ultimately come to understand that it's mysteries all the way down, deep down unresolvable.

Understanding that I'll probably never understand might just be that understanding beyond knowing the ancients used to carp about, though accepting this suggestion should not be mistaken for permission to simply give up trying to understand or striving to learn. We should, I suspect, continue aspiring, even for the impossible, to know enough about ourselves, for instance, to justify cynicism but to steadfastly refuse to degrade what little we do understand by ever engaging in cynical behavior. We daresn't give up, however hopeless resolution might seem, for therein lies not acceptance but abnegation. Life seems an ever-more tenuous balance, apparently not tendered for resolution, and a grave mistake to so interpret it.

A local self-help guru continually posts Fundamentally Unanswerable Questions. I cannot determine whether he does this on purpose, like proposing a koan kind of question, or if his practice evidences an underlying mental condition, that he cannot tell the difference between what he intends to ask and his actual questions. He often ascribes individual abilities to groups, as if a group could have feelings or even a knowing. "What do people want?", he might ask. The surprising thing is that people respond, just as if they could have had access to a state that clearly could never exist. Still, he posts many testimonials from satisfied clients, people who insist that working with him has resulted in dramatic improvements in their experience. They claim to feel happier and more productive now, though I somehow doubt that they've resolved many more EverydayMysteries than me. I just let these EverydayMysteries be:

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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