I came across the below quote from Tom Robbins in a book called "Love" that I found in the art library at work. I've never really seen the concept of "the mystery" pinpointed quite like this. As soon as I read "...the romance of ancient pyramids and distant stars are means of making contact with the mystery..." a light went off for me.
In a blog post a few days ago, I mentioned how watching hours of space exploration shows on PBS last Sunday hearkened me back to my kid-days of lying outside and watching the stars, and how the shows cheered me out of a sad mood I'd been in for weeks. What I was doing when I was kid was attempting to commune with "the mystery" and getting a glimpse of it.
And I actually did used to ponder the ancient Egypians' lives in the same way. (Unfortunately, once I saw a massive Egyptian exhibit at the Met here in NYC a couple of years ago, some of the mystery faded! Aside from the mystery-inducing sarcophagi, the vast number of merely junky trinkets and everyday things like shopping lists and graffiti displayed pretty much dimmed the glamour. I'd used to think the Egyptians were "hooked into" some special relationship with the cosmos, but nah. In their everyday lives, they were just as trivial as we are today. And the fact that they had grave-robbers ransacking the tombs made me realize that the society wasn't as a whole any more spiritual than any society.)
Aside from the Means to the Mystery that Robbins mentions below, for me personally, poetry (both reading and writing) and movies and some novels and rock'n'roll have also provided access at various times. I remember a couple of rare occasions when I personally had written something so on-spot, so close to the Mystery that I literally got goosebumps and physically got down on my knees to thank whatever spirit had entered me... Similarly, sometimes when I read a certain poem of Plath's or Eliot's or Yeats's or Rilke's or cummings's, I'll have the same reaction --- they've touched something completely extraordinary, struck the exact chord that allows you the reader, also, to see at the very core of things, which you may not have been able to do alone, without their guidance.
Or, with rock'n'roll: For instance, for me, "The Wall," which I listened to constantly at the height of my depression in '84/'85, remains for me the very epitome of expressing artistically being utterly lost, both personally and societally. And the very fact that Waters had managed to transcend his own depression and translate it into such a brilliant work to share with others was astounding and beautiful for me to witness. Even as it was making me cry (both for myself and for him/his persona in the songs and movie), I understood that by naming/touching the discord, Waters was helping us to move beyond it, as with a disease diagnosis.
Or, on the lighter side: I love the Beatles because (aside from the murky, scary "Sgt. Pepper") beneath the surface of often-great compositions, they also have an underlying pure energy of hopefulness and happiness and sanity that connects with that part in myself that WANTS to be more at the forefront... (The Stones ROCK more and are probably the better band, but... they're just a band.)
I could go on with examples from various art forms, but what I'm trying to get at, as Robbins does below, is how important it is for anyone to be able to sometimes get in contact with the Mystery, with the core. We're so far removed today from being able to go to our local Shaman and talk to him/her around the campfire and have that core conjured up for us. Yet we still crave that access, and try to get it in whatever way we can: Love, sex, art, drugs. Substitute shamans.
The key to remember, though, as Robbins says, is that "it is contrary to the nature of the mystery to stand still. Yet it is always there." Meaning, for the drug addict for instance, that while heroin, say, had indeed offered up a sense of bliss on occasion early on, the mistake comes in going back and back to that source for the mystery once it has passed on. If you do, it's just become a hurtful, non-magical addiction. Or a love gone: The mistake comes in going back and back to that source for the mystery once it has passed on. A hurtful, non-magical obsession.
The mystery "is always there," somewhere, in glimpses, never standing still, rarely (though sometimes) to be found at the same source. I just re-read "Siddhartha" recently, in my desperate attempt to find some peace of mind. I came away comforted by the river image: Always flowing, always changing, but still always the same...
from "Still Life with Woodpecker" by Tom Robbins
"When the mystery of the connection goes, love goes. It's that simple. This suggests that it isn't love that is so important to us but the mystery itself. The love connection may be merely a device to put us in contact with the mystery, and we long for love to last so that the ecstasy of being near the mystery will last. It is contrary to the nature of the mystery to stand still. Yet it's always there, somewhere, a world on the other side of the mirror (or the Camel pack), a promise in the next pair of eyes that smile at us. We glimpse it when we stand still.
The romance of new love, the romance of solitude, the romance of objecthood, the romance of ancient pyramids and distant stars are means of making contact with the mystery. When it comes to perpetuating it, however, I got no advice. But I can and will remind you of two of the most important facts I know:
(1) Everything is part of it.
(2) It's never too late to have a happy childhood."