So many of the aspects that make up our total human experience we did not chose for ourselves. We are bound to this single globe suspended in space. Upon this planet, we inhabit only its surface. We utilize only its upper crust. We can only breathe if we remain within the slim 10 miles between the surface of the earth and the lower atmosphere. At an altitude above 62,000 feet, our blood would boil within our veins. On the surface of the planet, we have the elements, hostile temperatures, and rough seas to contend with, confining nearly every living person to continents between 60 degrees north or south latitude.
When it comes to our lives and our health, we have made such strides in medicine, we are lead to believe that an end is coming to all sickness and dying. It would seem that throughout antiquity researchers are pushing back against death and dying with magnificent wonder and miracle. Let’s be reminded, that we still cannot cure the common cold, nor can we add years to one’s life. The life expectancy for humans is highest in Japan with an average of 82 years. Here in the USA it is 77. (CIA World Factbook)
We may stand on the coastline, the edge of a cliff, or the edge of our health, but without the assistance of machinery, equipment, and a fair bit of technology, we are confined to where we are. Although we believe that we are bigger, stronger, or more transcendent (more independent) that we truly are, the reality of human experience is that we are very small, very fragile, and quite insignificant in our small environment. We may be addicted to stretching beyond ourselves and our limits–to reach further than we ever have in human history, but the reality that returns with all of the record-breaking data is that we are tethered here with no where to go, and no business being elsewhere.
So we go as far as we can and imagine. We demand and expect more than we use to. We give ourselves the impression that science will allow us to soon become inhabitors of a new planet, a new reality, an eternal, immortal existence. When we arrive at what seems to be a boundary, perceived or genuine, we aim to discover a new means for pushing ourselves beyond it.
And so it is with knowledge.
When we speak about being confined by space, our answer is technology and astrophysics. When we speak about being confined by water, we engineer and propel. When we speak about limits in human understanding, we respond with science and reason. These are controlled and man-centered. There is no room here for mystery–no room for metaphysics.
I say that when we approach a limit to human reason, that would be a perfect place for mystery. That would be uncomfortable for me if I were a believer in what we freely choose. But when it comes to being confined, limited, and when it comes to uncomfortable matters of human existence that I did not choose, the mystery is not only a last resort, it must also be a first resort. I must recognize that so much of who and where I am has nothing to do with science and reason. Neither does it have anything to do with free will. Human existence never teaches me that I am free. Why would I turn to these matters as a last resort? Why would I look to them as my only resort?
I must become comfortable in the recognition that I am confined and limited with science and reason.
Secondly, I must become comfortable that I am who and where I am without exercising an ounce of free choice.
From here it is most scientific and most reasonable to express wonder and celebrate mystery. If I am to cross an ocean or if I am to planet-hop with my afternoons, (I am speaking metaphorically about breaching the known), then true understanding not only ends with, but also must begin with a mystery–a sea of the infinite–a reality far greater than me or any of my limited ability to understand it. I swim in it, and I am comfortable doing so.
. . . even if it required me to submit.