Posted by: Ariel | November 7, 2009


I spend a lot of my life accumulating knowledge, bent on knowing and understanding all I can.  But sometimes it seems as if each new bit of information comes at the price of a tiny bit of wonder and mystery.

I’m not advocating blissful ignorance, but there is something intriguing and even thrilling about a mystery, and about the unknown.  About exploring without a map.  Sometimes, the excitement is in the problem-solving aspect of figuring out a puzzle.  Other times my perception of something unknown is just different than when it is fully understood.  For example, listening to a song without being able to make out the lyrics brings out the sound of the words without the distraction of meaning.  Once I know the words, the song becomes more of a message and it’s hard to think of it in the same way.  Everything it was is tainted and colored by this new information.  Something is lost in that moment of understanding that is hard to get back.

Maybe it’s imagination that is sacrificed.  Old magic being told that it goes against the laws of physics, elves and fairies slowly being hunted to extinction or forced to sail away forever in the face of the intractable reason of man.  Perhaps when these fantasies are shattered, they leave us stranded in the mundanity of everyday life.  Or maybe it is hope that’s being lost: the people who left their homes and countries to settle somewhere else, not knowing what they’d find but dreaming of something different.  Maybe after all, it’s just lost innocence, replaced by that grown-up responsibility and accountability that keeps us from going back to never-never land.

I think it’s the case that no matter how enjoyable it is to be swept along in the wondrous currents of the mysterious, if we want to affect the world instead of just observing it, we must and should understand it.  Obviously when I listen to a song I don’t always try to analyze it.  It’s just a shame sometimes that if I wanted to learn how to play it myself, that haunting melody would becomes a series of minor chord changes, with a quantified rhythm and timbre, written down on a page.



  1. […] Consider the tension between simplicity and complexity in this podcast, where the question is asked, “what could be lost by understanding something completely?” The answer, of course, is magic. […]


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