On mystery, as inspired by a visit to my parents’ outhouse


My Mom would like me to lay claim to the outhouse. She thinks that I should call it the family outhouse. I disagree. When I stay with my parents, I say that I am staying at my parents’ house. And I maintain that the outhouse is also theirs.

On the wall of my parents’ outhouse is a poster with a quote on it that I am now struggling to remember. It’s something about “living into mystery…” which is funny for an outhouse, but reasonably wise, I think. Or catchy. Or something. So I decided to look for life and mystery quotes partially to explain to myself how I have ended up where I am currently sitting (not in the outhouse — don’t worry!) and partially to remind myself that not knowing everything is actually probably a gift. Maybe that’s my pessimist half talking, though, because I worry a little that knowing much, with any certainty, would be depressing.

Annie Dillard says “We wake, if ever at all, to mystery,” and C.S. Lewis says “Consciousness is either inexplicable illusion, or else revelation.” I want to assert that there are more options, but I like those two. Helen Keller is credited with “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to unchartered land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” So I’m avoiding believing it’s just pessimism that allows me to give in to mystery or surprises or wandering.

We have to invest more than pessimism; we have to focus and diligently follow whatever mysterious force asserts itself in us.

And this is what I think, all thanks to the poster in the outhouse.


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