Gold foil illustration of stars

Yráth

Hunger for Mystery in a Time of Easy Answers

We’ll never invent a computer that could give us an answer to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. But you have to wonder how close we might come one day—how many intractable mysteries will end up being solvable, how many inconveniences will get fixed over time.

It’s not hard to imagine how satisfying it would feel, cruising through the world on autopilot, along the optimum route at the optimum speed, hitting only the top-rated destinations. To have every question answered, every obstacle avoided, every risk insured in real time, with your odds of failure already calculated to the third decimal place, leaving you with little else to do but listen to a serene digital voice chime in with reminders and progress reports, muttering to yourself, I know, I know, I know.

But what are the odds that even then, you’d only end up feeling lost? Because there’s a part of you that doesn’t particularly want easy answers. That bristles at spoilers and step-by-step instructions, that wants to be fooled by magic tricks, that stirs to life whenever your phone dies and you find yourself lost in neighborhoods you’d otherwise never get to see. There’s still the art of the slow unveiling—learning the world by heart, piece by piece, in no particular rush—allowing yourself to soak in the mystery of things.

There’s some beauty left in mystery. The beauty of knowing that the ocean is still mostly uncharted, inhabited by creatures nobody’s ever seen, except for the scars they leave on the faces of whales. The beauty that we have names for planets that we’re not even sure exist. That the people of Ancient Greece lived out their lives within walking distance of Mount Olympus but never felt compelled to climb it, opting instead to let their gods live out their immortal lives in peace.

We should count ourselves lucky that we were born so early in history— back when the machine was only just starting to boot up, when it was still possible to go outside and savor a moment of in-betweenness. When you could still get out there in the early morning, pulling a canoe through the reeds on the edge of the lake, dropping a line, and waiting for a nibble in silence.

If nothing else, that silence reminds you to pay attention to the nature of things. Calibrating your senses, learning to recognize a glimmer of something real, turning in the deep. You have no idea what’s going to happen, if anything happens at all—but that’s alright, you’ve got nowhere to be.

As of this writing, there’s still no computer that can give us all the answers. No fish finder that can tell you when to set the hook. So you might as well sit back and soak in the suspense, and thank the gods that it’s still possible to get lost in the middle of nowhere, watching your line scribble across the water, humming softly to yourself, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.

Origin unknown. Pronounced “ee-rawth.”

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