Make Room For Mystery

So, it’s not new for me to write about mystery. I value the unknown quality as much as I do the known. I think that’s mostly true. Yes, most of us have our limits and tip over the edge into too much unknown. That’s when the circuits fry and our inner psyche’s can just go a bit haywire.

But, over the years, through a few circuit-fryings, I’ve come to realize that I actually embrace a couple of premises that have become pretty solid operating principles for me. This wasn’t as true for me in younger versions of myself. Developmentally, like most, I was coded to seek certainty. To protect. To project. To succeed. There were a bunch of seemingly good reasons.

One of my most treasured premises — when I’m at my best, I’m oriented to this — is one of my most simple. Prepare to be unamazed. “There is always more unseen than seen.”

Most of us can relate to some layer of unseen, be it in our personal or professional lives. For me, the unknown of when my 14 year-old dog Shadow will die is a big one for me the last three days. He overexerted himself chasing a cat. Hasn’t been able to move his sore legs and hips very well since then. And he didn’t eat for that time either. It’s a tough thing to say goodbye to a beloved family companion who has been masterful at following us around and inviting play on an almost daily basis.

Professionally (still feels like a falsely stated distinction), the unknown of plans and learning together is massive. As simple as it sounds, living in to complexity to welcome emergence is a big deal. When solutions don’t come from within the existing system (adaptive solutions rather than technical solutions), and only come because people are willing to engage each other — well, yes, there is a bunch of unknown and unseen and mystery in that. Learning to work together when there is no finish line, no end — yes, this requires an ability to dance with the unknown. It requires poetry, not just lists. It requires patience, not just convenience. It requires imagination, not just multi-tasking at scale.

I met a friend last week while riding the ferry from Bowen Island to Canada’s mainland near Vancouver. He is one that I respect for his insight. He was sharing how a recent gathering of men had gone. “Many arrived exhausted.” I nodded, and then offered, “How can you not be exhausted in the world that is as wonky as this is.” His summary statement is what stuck with me. “‘I don’t know’ — it’s the only think I can count on.”

Make room for mystery. For “I don’t know.” It’s what I long for in the simple and in the complex. In the personal and in the professional to break the spell of reductionism that is void of mystery.