4. Another person is a mystery, a calling of me outside myself. He or she is a mystery not only because he or she bears within him the mystery of life and the mystery of death and the mystery of nature that he has made over (or that, better, has made him over) within his conscious and unconscious personality, but because to be a person (from the Greek word for mask) is to be a mystery properly speaking.
This is why when we meet a person for the first time we do not ask straight off and directly: "Show me your mystery" (which we mean himself or herself); we work up to the mysteries in this person's life and the mystery of this person by circumlocutionary probings. Questions of place ("Where are you from?" "Where do you live?"), time "(Is this person my age and generation, or from what world does he come?"), work ("What do you do?"), and interest ("Are you a sports fan?") gradually soften up the process of meeting another.
But the authentic meeting takes place in insight: perhaps a look into the eyes may be enough for the revelation of the person. We say revelation, for this is the way one approaches a mystery: mystery is not arrived at (though it may be prepared for) by our pressured activity. It is revealed, unveiled, opened up for us as a rose in its time and under the proper atmospheric conditions becomes open for beholder to see. A human person is such a mystery capable of revelation of self when the time and the company are correct. This revelation is enough to stop one short, to change one who beholds the other.
It goes without saying that those who see others as problems, as body counts, as rungs on one's own private ladder to the heights, or as votes for one's own "policies" (always carefully manipulated to kowtow to rather than to attract), or as consumers to be counted and seduced-in short, as usable and useful in themselves-shut out mysteries these people run the ultimate risk of reducing their own existence (no less than that of those they manipulate) to a problematic one. Once again the consequence of such an option would be lifelessness or tedium with nonmysterious existence. It is to close oneself forever to the possibility-however distant it may sometimes appear to be from our touch-of intimacy, the sharing of the mysteries of life.
Picture taken by Angie Skelhorn on May 17, 2011 Full Moon - Faery Moon On Becoming A Musical Mystical Bear by Matthew Fox Paulist press/Deus Book pges 38-39
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3. Nature itself, the repeated cycles of growth and death and rebirth as manifest in animate nature-trees, wildlife, flowers; the symbols of passionate life we find in the sea and in the waterfalls and in rivers; the immensity of mountains-all these are for us also an experience of mystery. They cut so deeply into the unguarded world of our subconscious that they lodge there for centuries as meaningful symbols. How else do we explain the healing experience typified by the sea, the rebirth images of water, the warm, peaceful caresses conjured up by our memories of sunshine? Rousseau speaks for the nature-lover in his confessions:
I arose morning before the sun and passed through a neighboring orchard into a pleasant path which led by the vineyard and along the hills...While walking I prayed...with sincere lifting up of my heart to the Creator of this beautiful Nature whose charms lay spread out before my eyes...I like to contemplate him in his works.
And Goethe speaks to the pastoral soul: "Do you not see God? By every quiet spring, under every blossoming tree he meets me in the warmth of his love."
It is not enough to say that because so much of our current existence is urban we have given up on the mystery of nature. Quite the contrary; urban man is haunted by a nostalgia for that forgotten mystery which, precisely because nature evokes a mystery, cannot be gotten rid of in his consciousness and subconsciousness. How else shall we interpret urban man's attempts to "return to nature" by way of camping and vacations; by way of parks in his cities; by way of zoos; by way of floral shops and plants in the home (with the paradigm of an urban home being one with a garden on a penthouse of an urban home being one with a garden on a penthouse roof); with fountains in his city squares; and by the vicarious means of movies and museums and the study of the biological sciences.
Then, too,the urban dweller experiences nature in that most recently exploited of all nature's mysteries, sexual activity. It is mere coincidence that the sexual liberation on which our society prides itself has paralleled man's movement to the cities and away from nature's everyday presence? Is the human body not the one guarantee city-dweller possesses (especially if he is poor and cannot escape to the country on weekends) that the mystery of nature's rhythms and tones and swelling and rising and rebirths is still within his grasp? It is not, then, a pernicious and deadening act to moralize heavily about sexual activity before sexuality is grasped as an occasion for the appreciation of the mystery of nature for the urban dweller?
Does one who claims to be interested in the spiritual dare to judge as unspiritual those who seek the mystery of life in human communication expressed in sex? Sex is thus not the mere problem to which state so many would reduce it. It is a mystery as nature is a mystery.
It finds a degree of totality and ultimate experience insofar as it is related to an authentic union with another: a common experience to give and share love. "For many persons it is only, or chiefly, in sexual love that one encounters the category of an end in itself, the category of the sacred. It is from the experience for many, that religious language becomes meaningful again," Michael Novak.
The fact that scientists have begun to "penetrate the secrets of the universe" to a significant degree since Galileo first trained his telescope on the sun in no way of itself reduces nature to a problem. If some scientists sell their soul to consider atomic fission only from the point of view of the problem of war tactics and possibilities, this does not belittle the value of all natural research. Nor does the exploration of the planets, even though the billions it costs may be replacing more fundamental human needs of survival back on home planet. Nor does exploration into the functioning of sexuality such as Masters and Johnston have provided. These researches are antimysterious only to people who see life and nature as a problems and not mysteries.
A problem need not be opposed to mystery. On the contrary, scientific discovery very often increases our awareness of mystery by uncovering new depths to our world. Far from spelling an end to an age of mystery, scientific research open our eyes to the constant and almost overpowering presence of the bigger-than-we-are in our universe. These explorations are neither problem nor mystery, but a possible bridge between both realities-if we want them to be. Who could deny that the look on our planet from the moon increased, rather than diminished, our wonder at the uniqueness of our tenuous planetary existence?
On Becoming a Musical, Mystical Bear by Matthew Fox Paulist Press/Deus Book New York/Mahwah pg. 36-38 ISBN # 0-8091-1913-7
2. Death is a mystery of life. Without life we do not stand in awe at death. We do not even consider it (who weeps over the not yet born, or cries for them, or gets nervous for their safety and preservation from death?). For some, death is reduced to a problem (some are led to confusion by modern myth-making about freezing bodies, ect., another example of the rationalization of death; even were such a process manageable, death would retain its mystery, for death is mysterious not because it is unavoidable but because it is bigger than we are). Once reduced to a problem state, death can easily disposed of and swept away out of sight along with other problems (e.g., mental retardation, poverty). Thus psychiatrist Rollo May can say that for modern, middle-class man, death is pornography; it is the unmentionable. Why is that? Because it is simply a bad problem, a bad trip; it can be "solved" with a little more make-up and softer music and more satin lining in a coffin and more efficient refrigeration. Death must never be discussed, considered, or meditated upon as a mystery itself.
But a conglomerate conspiracy not to talk about death may well prove far more pernicious than any Victorian or Puritan plot never to talk about sex. For when one shortchanges death, one shortchanges life. They run on one tether. It is just coincidence that a culture bored with life is also bored with death? Is it mere coincidence that the age of the ennui with life was ushered in by mass slaughters of individuals-children, women, and men-in the World of Wars of this century; that is, by the loss of wonder and concern for life? What would be the consequences for a society or for an individual if the decision is fallen into neither life nor death has a value in itself? When death becomes as boring as life, all mystery will have ceased. Lifelessness will rule supreme, but with supreme boredom.
There are experts in our midst on the mystery of death. They are people not put off by death as a problem but to whom death remains a mystery constantly accompanying them. Among them is a family who have experienced the death of a child, of one of them, of a living person grasping for life, awakening to its mystery, reaching for its touch and its pleasure and its pain. Do not tell such a family, when their child is suddenly removed from their life, that death is a problem. Do not interrupt the mother as she weeps for the child at night with news that cadavers can be frozen; do not tell his four-year-old sister who looks in vain for her brother to play with that when she reaches the age of reason and is educated she will understand death and learn to resolve the mystery of her absent brother.
When we cannot respond directly to death; when we take it for granted or ignore it by silence or by talking around it (and reducing it to a problem to be solved); when the published lists of traffic fatalities, of war dead, of assassinated heroes, of earthquake victims do not arouse respect for the mystery of death and its constant presence within and without us; when we can no longer face our own death as a distinct moment in our life wherein we stand in the mystery of our life as past and finished; when we can no longer be aroused to working to prevent death, to putting it off, to fighting for life; and when those who fight to survive no longer inspire us - then we are already overcome with the spirit of lifelessness. We are bored and boring.
On Becoming A Mystical Bear Spirituality American Style by Matthew Fox Paulist Press/Deus Books New York/Mahwah pg. 34 - 36 ISBN # 0-8091-1913-7