Taking the plunge

There is a view among those who call themselves “spiritual” that we must preserve a sense of mystery in life, and that this sense of mystery is destroyed by our constant attempts to explain everything.

In truth, I think these folks underestimate the universe. They seem to think that the complexity, vastness, and strangeness of the universe is about to be completely analyzed and packed away. They are worried that we are down to the last one or two pieces of candy in the bowl, and they’re telling us to keep our hands off lest it all disappear.  But I don’t think they realize just how large that bowl of candy is, and just how much tantalizing discoveries lie ahead.

I also wonder, perhaps, if they don’t appreciate the sense of awe that scientists experience in their work. Perhaps they have succumbed to the stereotype of scientists as serious-looking people in lab coats, studiously doing away with the unknown parts of the universe like people clearing rubbish from the streets.

But that’s not what scientists are like. Scientists thrive on the awe-inspiring nature of the universe. They don’t want to tidy it away, and put it out of sight. They want to dive in and explore.

Those who prefer mystery are like swimmers standing on the edge of the pool, not daring to jump in for fear of destroying the mystery of the water. But if only they took the plunge, they would see that exploring the universe – immersing oneself in the waters of exploration – does not destroy the sense of mystery, it redoubles it, and renews it, with every fascinating breakthrough.

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