By Elizabeth Prata
I was expecting a delivery. UPS. They have that tracker thing so you can see around what time the item will arrive. When it gets real close, they provide a map with a little icon of a truck, and you can actually follow his stops. The map shifts as he makes progress to your house. I get a huge charge out of that. The things they come up with these days!
But then I got to thinking. Where’s the mystery? It used to be … in my day, lol…you paid for an item and hoped it show up sometime and then you’d be surprised. Surprise! Your package came. Oh, boy!
I thought about other surprises that we’ve lost because of tracking type technology. Caller ID shows you exactly who is calling. You can even knowingly decline the call. It used to be, the phone rang, you picked it up, and you dealt with whoever or whatever was on the other end.
This is how we blocked calls in the old days:
In the 1974-1980 show The Rockford Files, about a down & out PI named Jim Rockford, the telephone message machine was a prominent part of the opening. In a few funny lines you’d know all you needed to know about Jim. They always featured some message alerting him to something urgent, but funny. Overdue library book, bookie wants his money, stray girlfriend, check bounced, pick up your halibut,… The machine was new then, a new technology. The idea of capturing a message and playing it later, so you didn’t miss anything! Wow!
Of interest: What the Rockford Files can Teach us about the History of Answering Machines
You can see news in real time instead of waiting for the newspaper to come out the next day. I remember years ago there was an earthquake in Christchurch New Zealand. I turned to Youtube and saw the quake as it finished quaking, the dust hadn’t even settled. Imagine, seeing news unfold in real time from across the world!! I was flabbergasted.
There’s pros and cons with instant news. Hot takes aren’t always good, and thoughtful reflection usually is.
One of the only true surprises one can blessedly have is the sex of your baby. Ultrasounds give pregnant moms the option of discovering if it’s a boy or girl. In my day, the 1960s, none of the three of my mother’s children’s sex was known before birth. It was a mystery that lasted 9 months.
Employers can see everything a prospective employee has posted. Instant replays take the mystery out of a sports call. CCTV tracks everyone. Of course it is a good thing that we can know and predict tornadoes and storms, so as to save lives.
Instant access to what you want to find out about is a good thing. But I wonder…in some ways we have experienced a loss. With everything being plainly seen and known, do we lose some mystery? I believe we do lose a sense of mystery. And with that, lost a sense of majesty…wonder…awe.
I know that the ancients, when they saw the Northern Lights, likely attributed them to gods waving a blanket. We know now that they are caused by a geomagnetic storm sending ions hurled from the sun in a solar wind to interact with the earth’s magnetic field.
But though we know the cause, we should still ponder the mystery of their beauty. God didn’t have to make them beautiful colors. He didn’t have to make them wave so charmingly over the northern (and southern) poles. Knowing the cause takes some mystery out of them, but we can admire their majesty.
How much have we lost a sense of majesty…transcendence…mystery? Do we really have to know about every single little detail, so much so that it takes the mystery out of things? I’m not saying we should be ignorant of important items. But if we see something as magical as the Northern Lights, do we explain to onlookers the ions and solar wind, or do we bow down and utter a reverent prayer to the one true God?
Let mystery and majesty and transcendence play a part in your life. Look up from the phone once in a while, at the mystery of blossoms appearing every spring, at how the birds are fed and cheerful, at clouds so puffy they look like cotton candy, at how a non-aerodynamic bee, can fly.
A great mystery is how a Christian will die, but then be raised to new life. One of the greatest mysteries is how God, being Spirit but also existing as a separate person as Jesus in the Godhead, was also incarnated as Man and lived on earth fully man and fully God. The Trinity is a mystery. The conception of Mary.
We should use the word transcendent, bask in the mystery of the Trinity, praise majesty (quality or state which inspires awe or reverence; grandeur; exalted dignity, whether proceeding from rank, character, or bearing; imposing loftiness; stateliness; — usually applied to the rank and dignity of sovereigns.)
Not everything has to be known. Not all has to be explained. We can experience events without having to explain them. We can settle into a mystery without having predicted its imminent occurrence.
Philosophers have been grappling with this question for millennia. People who know God understand mystery, majesty, transcendent splendor of the Holy One of Israel. But secular philosophers write things like this in essays called “The Mystery of Life Cannot Be Explained“:
I can theorize about perception and cognition. I can do experiments to test those theories. But even if I gave you an account of what every nerve cell in your brain at every nanosecond was doing, it would still not be experience. It would be nothing more than a list of words and numbers. Your actual and direct experience of the world — of the tart taste of an apple or of looking into the eyes of someone you love — would always overflow the list. There would always be more.
Today’s technology makes us think we can resolve all the answers we seek, know all the things we want to know. To a great extent with today’s technology, that’s true, but not completely.
That ‘more’ is God. Bask in Him today, explore the things that cannot be explained. This grows trust in our hearts, even as our mind is charmed by the things even Christians cannot know.