Building A Mystery

My second favorite Sarah McLachlan song is probably “Building A Mystery,” from her popular Surfacing album. This song is remarkable in having an accurate view of mystery in its religious sense, when she speaks of a cross from a faith that died before Jesus came and points to the secrecy that is such a part of those mystery religions. Given that there are people who write at greater length and with greater skill [1] about the mechanics and development of the Babylon mystery religion, it is not a subject that I tend to write about often, yet because it was the subject of a sermon yesterday by my minister, it is worthy of at least some discussion. It is not only in this sense of mystery, though, that I wish to discuss, because my life is filled with mysteries in a larger sense, and I feel compelled from time to time to wrestle with mysteries in all their complexity.

I would have made a poor candidate for initiation in any particular historical mystery cult, whether we are talking about the mysterious cults of the Roman Empire, or still more ancient ones, or modern imitators like the Masons. I am a chatty person who is not particularly good about keeping knowledge trapped inside, with the compulsion to share my reflections with others, and with a total disinterest in lording it over others with privileged knowledge, but rather wishing to share such knowledge as I possess with anyone who is interested in hearing or reading it. This would have given me a short life expectancy when dealing with any of these mysteries. When that is coupled with what is at best a deeply ambivalent approach to authorities and elites in general and a certain strongly egalitarian bent, I would not likely to be seen as very suitable for initiation into elites by just about any group of elites that could be found anywhere. In fact, my life expectancy in any situation that requires me to keep my mouth shut and not talk about certain people or situations, whatever they may be, is not particularly great. This is not something I am necessarily happy or proud about, but something that I have seen over and over again in my life without any apparent ability to stop.

Beyond my disastrous relationship with any would-be mystery cults, my relationships with mysteries in general is somewhat ambivalent. On the one hand, I must candidly admit that I have a fondness for at least some forms of mystery [2], especially a well-written mystery novel. I suppose that this interest goes along with a few of my characteristic traits and tendencies, among them a certain cerebral and analytical approach to life and also the compulsive interest I have in trying to solve puzzles. When it comes to working on puzzles on the computer or in physical form, or even logic puzzles, this is the source of largely unmixed pleasure. The puzzles themselves do not object to being solved, and no one particularly objects when I go about solving them in my own peculiar fashion, framing the boundaries of the puzzle and then working on the patterns within, making connections as possible, until the last few pieces fit in snugly to make the complete picture. If only all mysteries could be that snug and satisfying.

Yet that is manifestly not the case. This morning, for example, I called my grandmother on the phone to wish her a slightly belated 83rd birthday (her birthday was yesterday, but between the time difference and our Sabbath and post-Sabbath schedules, there was no free time that I had where both of us were awake and free to chat). To put it very mildly, the conversation was very awkward, and it bothered me a lot and made me ponder the mystery of it. There were a lot of pauses, quite a few cases (especially at the beginning of the chat) where my grandma didn’t understand what I was saying and I had to repeat myself, sometimes multiple times. She seemed surprised that I would call her, as if it would be strange that even though I am far away that I would not seek to find a convenient time to call an aging grandmother who cannot get around as well as she used to to make sure everything is alright, even if I have little of compelling interest in my own personal life to share. Even though I have a troubled and complicated history with much of my family, I dearly love them all; I just wish communication was not so awkward, as it would give me hope that the mysteries of being able to convey feelings without causing or feeling offense could be seen in all areas of my life. A man can dream, though.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Biblical History, Christianity, Church of God, History, Love & Marriage, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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