The fairytale theme of every wedding is – perfect love. It is a good story that has little to do with reality: this combination of imperfect humans will somehow achieve perfection. Expecting perfection is a fiction. It doesn’t exist in reality. But, what a great idea; it’s like adding two odd numbers together and making an even number, as if even numbers are the best numbers and odd numbers are, well, no offense, odd.
Can you imagine how difficult it would be for a mathematician to do their job if numbers were offended by being called odd, or an angle called obtuse? They’d all be grouching about the world being against them for being odd, or wide angle abuse or whatever. Fortunately, numbers are perfect; names aside, of course.
If humans were perfect they would be as boring as numbers. I mean really, what is 36 going to add to the conversation outside of 36 – nothing! A number is certain. They know their past and their future and to expect them to surprise you with something other than 36 gets a big red X on the test.
There is no perfect love, or lover, or spouse because we are not numbers. Our future is uncertain, our past may be hidden, our minds can change and the only sure thing is uncertainties, mysteries, and doubts. That is the world we live in.
Survival here means acquiring the skill-set known as negative capabilities. This is where we move forward in life knowing it to be an ever-changing mystery. This requires one to hold many conflicting thoughts in their head, yet remain comfortable with the inherent contradiction. Humans naturally seek order and harmony, they tease reason out of mystery. We study the processes of nature with analytical reasoning and objective measurement in hopes that knowledge will bring us peace and progress.
When we seek facts and truth and certainty in a world that isn’t made for certitude we treat reason and logic as holy. But, negative capabilities are what allow us to use the mechanisms of reason and logic within the mysteriousness of our circumstance. All three must be considered foundational mechanisms for progress.
Religion tries to define and control our understanding of the mystery, yet they become certain of their fantasies. They make rules that solidify mystery into fact rather than letting it remain mysterious. That impetus to certify the “truth” of a moment in time, freezes them out of the ability to be present with negative capability as it exists at every new moment. The whole point is that the mystery is in eternal flux. Jesus may have been the savior of his time, but within an instant of time’s forward progress he stopped being that, no matter how many cathedrals continue to be built to celebrate that long-gone moment.
The ability to go with the flow, so to speak, illuminates the zeitgeist of the moment. Musicians and artists get this. Scientists, philosophers and other thoughtful folks ought to pay attention to it too. I make the case regularly that art does a better job of what religion presumes to do than religion does, without all the coercion and hoopla. For example, I wore out several copies of “Tommy” by the Who in my early days as a theatrical designer, listening to it while drawing and conceiving the scenery for other shows. Playing the Doors’ music helps with cleaning the house for some reason. Why? It’s a mystery. Become one with the Pin-ball Wizard and creativity flows through you into a set design for Talley’s Folly. The Lizard King has secret knowledge to help vacuum dust motes. Let It Be – it is a mystery!