Yesterday I laid the ground rules for mysteries and why they have played such a huge role in the development of our society.
Note how I say ‘huge’ rather than important or vital.
Are these mysteries a good thing for survival? Better yet: is this incessant hunt for the unknowable a human-only trait? Did we evolve this love of mystery?
The general argument goes like this: we like to see patterns. We attribute cause to every effect. We like to believe that there’s something more to life than just 80 years of humdrum mundanity followed by death and burial and rigor mortis. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know if animals and plants feel the same way, but it’s often stated that only humans ponder the existence of an after-life (though who knows if this is true…) So it’s something in the brain — our brain — that sets us apart from the rest of them. We must’ve evolved that functionality, or been given it by our Creator — whatever, I’m not going to get into a theological discussion here.
The point is, at some point in time, we grew to love mystery. Like, seriously adore. You can look at certain times in history when almost everything in your day-to-day life was ritual. Wake up; pray. Hunt; pray. Eat; pray. Old wives’ tales. Turning three times widdershins before crossing a cursed threshold. Naming of children. Gods! Astrology! It’s all attributing cause to effect.
I sometimes wonder if people realise how feeble it is to be nothing but a pawn of the universe. You are merely the result of billions of random-chance-and-cause-unknown effects. Only, wait a second, the cause isn’t unknown! It’s the god of war! Of the hunt! Wine! The Israelites — God!
But, hang on, we’re not all mystery junkies. There are some people that hate the idea of mystery. They’re called ‘scientists’.
And that’s the bit I don’t get. There are people that can only sleep at night knowing that God is looking over them, that Jesus makes their miserable, sinful life bearable — and then there are those that are the complete opposite. There are people that find the idea of spirituality or immortality repulsive: ‘that which can not be proven does not exist, so why give such concepts such credence?’
Are these scientists, these doubters-of-mysterious-coincidence, an evolutionary creation? Are they relatively new — the last few thousand years or so — or have there always been questioning, discerning doubters since the dawn of time? Was fire really stolen from the gods, or did Ug the Caveman create it through trial and error? Throughout history there have always been a few that question their surroundings. Rarely are their voices heard — usually only for a split, blood-curdling second before the guillotine drops or the tinder is lit. In fact, today and for the first time in history, scientists seem to finally have gained more respect and gravitas than theologians. Thank God.
The sad bit is that mystery, or at least those that ‘believe’ in mystery, far outweighs the truth, the cause-seeker, the scientists. The vast majority believe in the omnipresence and omnipotence of God or gods. On top of that there a lot of people that are apathetic to the discovery of knowledge and truth. It seems to me that ‘mystery junky’ is the dominant genetic trait. Maybe we can genetically engineer our DNA to remove such a trait…