Updated: Apr 28, 2020
Most people seem to enjoy mysteries . . . mystery novels or movies. By my lights, two reasons for this are 1) it’s fun to try and figure it out, and 2) by the end of the book or movie the mystery is solved. Another kind of mystery can try one’s patience, even become maddening. Or . . . it can entice one to continue the quest for understanding. I’m talking about mystery that is unsolvable.
The Native American Ojibwe tribe’s word for Great Spirit is Kitchimanidoo. A character in Purgatory Ridge by William Kent Krueger posits: “Who can say what Kitchimanidoo is all about? We see little and understand less.” In my experience, a person to be most wary of is one who claims to see and understand all.
Historically and presently, there are more than enough folks around whose proclamations communicate the attitude: “If you want to know the immutable truth about Kitchimanidoo or God or the Ground of Being or whatever, check with me. I have a direct line that enables me to comprehend the deepest meanings of life. And, by the way, if you have different spiritual understandings than I, you’re dead wrong.”
Author Anne Lamott wrote that “the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.” Stands to reason. Certainty is knowing: the sun will rise in the east; two plus two equals four; a black mamba bite will likely kill you. Faith is acknowledging that something real is afoot, but unknowable in a scientific or math-equation sense. Too many people assert that the spiritual concepts they embrace (and particular understandings relating to it) are akin to empirical fact. That, as Lamott says, is not faith.
Everyone has faith in something even if one doesn’t consciously recognize what it is. Science, empirical observation, and logical deduction certainly have their place. But perhaps the greatest mysteries in the world are those we’ll never be able to put under a microscope or solve with some whiz-bang mathematical formula. Affection, love, loyalty, and the like fit this category.
Far be it from me to try and tell anyone how to think. As well, please do not condemn me because my fragile spiritual understandings are different from yours . . . with the caveat that if certain perceptions lead to the harming of others, they need to be confronted.
“We see little and understand less.” Yet part of the human makeup is the continuing pursuit to see and understand more. I would hope we can do it together, and with mutual respect.