The Value of Mystery

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By M.F. Erler

Over the years, I have repeatedly run into writers who emphasize the need for mystery in our lives. I don’t mean murder mysteries, though I enjoy reading these, and so do many others apparently—for it’s a popular genre across all forms of media.

No, what I mean is something I first ran across in Frank Herbert’s Dune books. His main character, Paul Atreides, is prescient and knows all that is coming in his future.I thought that would be a great gift to have, but instead it becomes more and more of a burden to him. He begins to lose all hope in his life, for he knows exactly what each day will bring—all the way up to his death.

This idea opened a new world of thought for me. The next place I discovered the concept was in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. In one scene, the wizard Gandalf tells Frodo that there is no need to despair. “Only those who know the future without a doubt have cause of despair.” At first, this seemed backwards to me. But as I thought more about it, I realized that it’s the mystery, the unknown aspect of the future, that leaves room for hope. For we don’t know everything. Maybe we aren’t meant to.

Even in the Book of Job, an ancient piece of poetic literature we’re told, this idea is prevalent. Job experiences all kinds of heartbreaks and setbacks in his life and begins to ask God why he has allowed this. (I confess that I often find myself asking questions like this, too.) In the end of the book, God at last comes to Job, but he doesn’t answer his questions. Instead he asks him questions such as, “Where were you when I created the world? Can you create anything like I have?”

And Job’s reply?  “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” He is humbled by the mystery.

One of C.S. Lewis’s most misunderstood book is called Till We Have Faces. I read it several years ago, and perhaps need to again. It’s a retelling of the ancient myth of Cupid and Psyche, from the viewpoint of the young woman’s sister. She often asks the gods why they have tormented her sister. In the end, however, she realizes that the gods are a mystery for a reason. She says, “I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer [to my questions]. You are yourself the answer.” This is, according to most, Lewis’s most completely realized character. And to me, she seems to echo Job.

In the end, we must face up to the fact that we humans don’t know everything. Even though our techno-scientific culture pushes us to intensify our search, maybe its failure is what helps us to embrace and value the mystery in our lives.

 

Is it Wisdom or . . .?

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By Catherine Browning

 

With age and maturity comes surgery. Ha! You thought I would say wisdom, didn’t you? Unfortunately, wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age. How many of you know some old codger or prune of a woman that can only be described as a fool? But that isn’t what I want to share with you. 

Age does not = wisdom.

Surgery = wisdom.

How do I know this? Some of the smartest people I know have had multiple surgeries. It wasn’t the surgery itself that produced the wisdom, but rather the introspection that followed the surgery. That person became dependent on others to help them through a day with clean-up, clothing, food . . . you get the idea. 

Suddenly, people became important. Even more important was expressing appreciation for the assistance. Without appreciation, the help stops. Wisdom makes sure the surgery patient figures out ahead of time how not to be alone when he or she needs help the most. With all the introspection, our surgery person is changed for the better.

Ergo, surgery = wisdom!

Of course, the person needs to be willing to change. (My disclaimer in case the premise doesn’t hold true!)

Birth of a Book

 

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By Deborah Epperson

(originally published April 25, 2016)

Yesterday, I gave birth to my next novel. By that I mean I finally got to write the two sweetest words in a writer’s lexicon—THE END. I know some may think the two sweetest words are UNDER CONTRACT, but I disagree, especially in this new world of ebooks and self publishing.

Getting to the point where you can write those precious two words is (as every writer knows) not really the end, but rather the signaling that a new phase can now commence. I liken writing a book to giving birth because at times it can be exhilarating, painful, exciting, agonizing, a delight or a grind. Plus, there’s the emotional roller coaster that can easily be compared to the hormonal fluctuations of pregnancy. You know those late nights when you write something you think is so good, it must be inspired by the gods. Then when you read it the next day, you feel more like that person in Munch’s, The Scream. Little wonder why the letters on the DELETE key wear off first.

But now, after only a fourteen year pregnancy, my new book-child is born. Next comes the infant and toddler stage of editing, revising, editing, revising, editing . . . (you get the picture). I’ll have to go in and clean up all the “mess” and hope I don’t make a bigger one when I do. Example: Somewhere in the book the sheriff’s name mysteriously changed from Emmett to Virgil. Thank goodness for Find and Replace.

The school year stage comes next. You get to pick how you want to dress your book-child. Bright covers or dark noire? A landscape or person on the cover? Sexy, bold, simple or sedate? Hire a professional or do it yourself? What do you want the back cover, front cover, and spine to look like? What font? Use your name or a pseudonym? And gosh-a muddy, you’ve got to pick a title, a perfect title, one that grabs the reader’s attention.

Finally, your baby is ready to graduate, to be presented to the public like a debutante at a Southern Cotillion. You’re so proud, so hopeful readers will swoon over her, tell their friends about her, and plunk down their Visa card for a chance to hold her in their hands or see her on their Kindles.

And then, you start all over again with that new story that’s been swimming around in your head for a couple of years. Are novelist part masochists or expectant dreamers? Maybe, a little of both.

Thanks for stopping by,

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eBook cover - Shadows of Home - Deborah Epperson