the beautiful mystery

“The most beautiful expression we can have is the mysterious.  It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”*

Sherry Turkle offers this insight from her research into how we are expecting more from our technology.

‘But for Tara, as for many, the telephone call is for family.  For friends, even dear friends, it is close to being off the menu.’**

She continues with her own confession:

‘I have been complicit with technology in removing many voices from my life.’**

I realise I have too.

There’s a question running in background of may mind and it goes something like this: If life is all about relationships – how we relate to others, our world, and ourselves, and how everything exists does so in relationship to everything else  – is love the greatest expression of relationship?

I read Richard Rohr who argues that absolute love is ‘the very name and shape of Being itself.’^

There follows the question of whether technology is reducing our experience of this.  Increasingly there’s a misalignment of time between myself and those I am communicating with.  This has always been our experience.  A letter meant I could write to you and you would receive my message several days later.  Telegrams shortened this to hours.  The telephone meant we could hear each other’s voices.  Now texts and messages and emails are turning things in the other direction.

‘We did not set out to avoid the voice but end up denying ourselves its pleasures.  For the voice can only be experienced in real time, and both of us are so busy that we don’t feel we have it to spare.’**

Turkle is imagining a mutuality of speaking and listening.  Only then do I know my voice is being heard – I may leave you a voicemail but you don’t have to listen to it.  A voice disconnected in this way is uncanny or acousmatic: ‘a voice whose source cannot be seen, i.e. an off-camera (or off-screen) voice.’^^

Voice “speaks” of more than this for me.

It also means the “art” someone brings out from their connected life: their talents, passions, and gift.  We offer our art as a means of connection; we might say, the product of realigning time with ourselves and a way of realigning time with others, and even with the world.  This is to touch the beautiful mystery.

Alan Lightman shares the elation of a scientific breakthrough:

‘Then, I felt a sense of mystery.  I had shed light on a small corner of nature. […] Just as Einstein suggested, I have experienced that beautiful mystery both as a physicist and as a novelist.  As a physicist, in the infinite mystery of physical nature.  As a novelist, in the infinite mystery of human nature and the power of words to portray some of that mystery.”*^

In these words we hear Lightman’s voice – expressed in his science and writing of the mystery of human nature.  It’s the realignment of our times that makes it possible to explore this beautiful mystery together.

(*Albert Einstein, quoted in Alan Lightman’s A Sense of the Mysterious.)
(**From Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)

(^From Richard Rohr’s The Divine Dance.)
(^^From Charlotte Bosseaux’s Dubbing: Film and Performance.)
(*^From Alan Lightman’s A Sense of the Mysterious.)



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