Philosopher Gabriel Marcel drew an interesting distinction between problem and mystery. Problems have solutions, he said, while mysteries are to be enjoyed unsolved. “Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived” is an aphorism attributed to Marcel.
Too many things lie beyond our capacity for solutions. The earthquakes and the cyclones belong to the nonhuman side of the universe, beyond human control. When the variegated colours and sounds of nature enchant us we are immersing ourselves in the mystery of the same nonhuman universe.
The universe does not comprehend the difference between the shifting of the tectonic plates and the warbling of the nightingale, between a shipwreck and a swan’s neck.
The heavens are indifferent whether lightning strikes down the greatest monument or Beethoven composes the sweetest symphony. The sense of wonder or despair belongs to the human consciousness. The heavens are above and beyond the need for wonder as well as despair. We don’t like that indifference. Our hearts long to feel emotions such as love and hatred, wonder and despair. That’s why we need a god (or many gods) in the heavens. To mitigate the inhuman indifference of the heavens. To be our alter egos up there in the emptiness, the scary emptiness, the emptiness that stares into our hearts.
The emptiness and the indifference of the heavens is the mystery that we have to live. Instead we fill that emptiness with mumbo jumbo offered to gods with our own shapes.