One of the tragic losses from the modern era has been the loss of unabashed awe. During this time in history, we see a dramatic surge in knowledge from the various facets of science. The capabilities that we possess as the human race now to produce, create, repair, heal, and discover are incredible and directly attributable to the precision and determination with which we have been able to work in relatively recent years.
But in the process of building our knowledge and the endless pursuit of the provable we have all but lost one of the most amazing aspects of humanity. Our self-aggrandizing quest for limitless knowledge has chipped away at our understanding that the “awe of the unknowable” is in itself inspiring. It is almost no longer “human” to consider a question unanswerable, to remain in the dark about anything that can be considered remotely important.
We have moved into a time where questions have no inherent value unless they are followed with an explanation. Great thought is now empirical rather than philosophical. The greater value is now placed on the state of knowing rather than the art of learning.
In fairness, anything finite can be understood. The workings of the human mind and neurological system are incredibly complex and once thought impossible to fully comprehend. Very intelligent people are already beginning to model human brain activity in new ways using new technologies developed by the very systems they are studying. Someday we will have an incredibly accurate visualization of the intricacies of this aspect of life. Assuming the laws we have in place are true, and our universe turns out to be finite, we will traverse it, and grasp the things that are unknown.
As scientific fact continues to be refined (e.g. all the “steps” in our evolution, the quirks with Einstein’s relativity, etc) we will eventually reach true understanding about almost everything. And we should pursue these things with exactly the same fervor as we currently do.
But there is value in the admission that not all questions are answered with facts. There is inspiration and new outlooks on life when we admit that there are things we will never be able to answer without bias or opinion masquerading as truth.
We can practice this now. Some of us will never know the full-details of the intricacies of the way the body does the things that a body needs to do to survive. Be inspired by this. Whether you believe it was created by a god or arrived at by the laws of nature, it is amazing to think about what had to have happened to reach this point and what has to happen every second of every day.
Think about the mind. No one alive today will ever fully understand the way that electricity some how transforms into conscious thought. There’s value in being filled with awe about this and not just seeing it as an unanswered question.
And yes, then there’s the issue of faith and death and what happens next. This is perhaps the quintessential “unanswerable” question. By their very being “questions of faith” at best they can only be answered with thought and persuasion. The “answers” to these questions can change from hour to hour and from person to person.
With questions of faith there are no “Yes” or “No” answers. And perhaps that’s why these questions are so appealing to me – because of how much recently I’ve been avoiding black and white as much as possible.
And, yet, somehow we often relegate this realm to that of the fairy tale because we cannot say with certainty what the “answers” are. That’s the beauty of these questions. They can answered at best with a “maybe” and more often an “I don’t know.”
Black and white is nice, but it’s also the easy way out.
I want to get lost in the wonder of everything that’s around me. The subtleties of life. The interactions between people. Questions of love and faith and dreams and aspirations and worth and purpose.
I want to be introspective. I want to question the meaning of life and my value as a human and be better for it. There is no room for this without awe. The unknowable, in some mystic way, is the only way to begin to answer these issues. It is only by venturing out from the black and white domain that we’ve created that living even begins.
And even when we admit that some “answers” are unknowble, no questions are “unanswerable.”
We can claim to know more than any generation before us, to have mapped the heavens and observed the molecular.
So what. Do you think?