“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”
– Albert Einstein, The World As I See It
There is so little room for mystery in our busy, fast paced, technologically-saturated world. With mobile devices affixed to our bodies and google at-the-ready, there is nothing we cannot know.
I think that may not necessarily be a good thing. Personally, I kinda’ like pondering the unknown and inviting a bit of mystery into each day. In fact, I wonder if we loose something important in our rush to ‘know’. Is there a muscle that becomes underdeveloped when we don’t wonder enough? Are we shutting the door on new ideas or an innovative solution by rushing to the interwebs for a factoid to fill the void, inserting someone’s answer into our pressing question?
What if, just for a day or two, we pondered a bit more? What if we paused when faced with a question and, rather than jumping to fill the void, we left a space for something interesting? Perhaps what becomes most interesting in that space is an awareness of how anxious not-knowing makes you feel. Is it okay to not know?
For me this one manifestation of valuing the journey and not simply the destination. Certainly there are pressing things each day for which it is critical to find an answer. Pronto! But not everything that sends us scurrying to The Google needs an answer right now. I promise.
Let’s make space for mystery and pondering this week, shall we? Let’s wonder together and see what happens. Please do let me know what you discover.
PS. I get so many requests for this essay about discovering mystery in the mundane. May mystery find you open to a little dance this week, my friends.
THE VEIL IS SO THIN
By Elizabeth Cabalka, 2005
Last Fall I was asked to speak at a church for All Saints day. The service was to be a marvelous celebration of all who had “gone on before us” and a time for remembrance. As the author of a book about caring for my husband, Charles, during his journey with terminal cancer, a friend felt I might have some words of wisdom to contribute to the service. While I was deeply flattered, frankly, I was stumped.
Charles was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 1998 at the ripe old age of 39. He subsequently lived an amazing and inspiring three and one-half years after this diagnosis, passing away on Thanksgiving Day 2001. Since that day, I have heard his voice and felt his presence in numerous ways, including a drop of rain and box of greetings cards.
Contemplating the message for All Saints day, I sat at my computer as waves of inner confusion washed over me. I searched aimlessly for the words that would somehow provide comfort to grieving individuals when I was knee-deep in my own grief and pain. My personal perplexity was wrapped in this ever-present irony: while I could no longer see or touch Charles, I believe he is always with me, part of me, around me, and very present. To be sure, during my times of grief and loneliness, these thoughts are challenging to reconcile. Even so, my belief in his presence has been reinforced in many ways.
For example, I arrived home the day after his funeral, alone for the first time in days, to an empty house. It was a rainy, cold, gray November day, typical for Minnesota. As I reached up to close the garage door, dreading my trip down the walkway to a silent house, a drop of cool rain caressed my cheek. Wiping it away, I heard Charles’ voice gently and clearly say, “I am the rain that touches your cheek. You are not alone.” In that moment I found the strength to go inside the house and begin my life again.
A few months ago Charles showed up again during an event he would have surely loved, the annual all-city garage sale in my quaint rural community, population 2,600. A few months earlier I purchased a home within the city limits and was able to host a garage sale with many of my neighbors for the very first time. I sorted and tossed, priced and boxed, then sorted some more until the day of the sale arrived. Anxious customers showed up at the door at dawn with dollars in hand and the big day began with a flurry of driveway commerce.
Charles always loved a good deal and a garage sale had ‘good deal’ written all over it. He was a master at clipping coupons and the king of the mail-in rebate. Years earlier, one particularly good ‘store’ coupon from the newspaper matched with an equally beneficial manufacturer’s coupon reduced a much-loved breakfast cereal to mere pennies per box. For one week, the length of the promotion, Charles scoured recycling bins for coupons and made thrice daily trips to the grocery store. Seven days later we had our own personal stockpile of our favorite breakfast cereal. Fifty-two boxes to be exact. Yes, to say Charles loved a good deal was an enormous understatement
The day of the garage sale I placed a box of 100-150 greetings cards on a TV tray outside the garage. Early in his career, Charles worked for a greeting card company and his remaining legacy was this stash of well wishes sorted neatly in a cardboard box, ten cents each and fifteen for one dollar. After the initial early morning rush of garage sale customers, there was a brief lull that sent me wandering among my possessions. My feet led me to the box of cards and I began to read and chuckle. Midway through the stack, I came across a piece of cardboard, a section divider, labeled in Charles’ precise handwriting. “Miss You” was all it said. I clutched this message tightly to my chest and knew Charles was with me. Such a priceless message there amidst the mundane!
Though eighteen months had passed since his death, it was as though he was standing right there beside me, overseeing it all wearing his unmistakable ‘good deal’ grin. His presence felt so very real, but I told no one of my feelings and questioned my thoughts. “Was this real?” and “What is real anyway?” were questions I pondered as I made change for a dollar and bagged an old pair of ice skates.
A few minutes later, I was back at the box of greeting cards, hesitant and more than a little confused. Toward the back of the box, a second cardboard divider provided an answer to my inner questioning. Once again labeled in Charles’ precise handwriting, the transcendent message simply read, “I Love You”. Nothing more.
That Saturday morning, standing in my driveway I fully understood that the veil is so thin between what we see and what we cannot. We are inextricably connected by the love we share. This was Charles’ message to me in the unexpected raindrop and a box of old greeting cards on a TV tray in the driveway.