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Puzzles have conclusions but mysteries do not. A whodunit story eventually reveals the truth and there is an anticlimax. Knowing is satisfying but it also ends the need for further inquiry.
Mysteries are different to puzzles. The deeper you dig, the more you find. Unexpected avenues lead to unanticipated places. You learn to embrace the unknown; to seek out information and experiences.
There is no guarantee of a conclusion, and the very idea of completion seems naive.
"You are under an illusion,"
said the master after a while, "If you imagine that even a rough
understanding of these dark connections would help you. These are processes
which are beyond the reach of understanding. Do not forget that even in
nature there are correspondences which cannot be understood, and yet are so
real that we have grown accustomed to them, just as if they could not be any
Modern times are awash with information revealing the most intimate details about total strangers. The internet and lifestyle magazines gossip endlessly about people's private lives.
There are countless TV programs dedicated to exploring personal tragedy and humiliation... Honesty is fine. But not everything that could be said needs to be said.
It can be advantageous to cultivate a little mystique, and have some privacy.
Telling your partner everything about yourself is seldom necessary. Firstly, people do not care. They have their own lives and their own concerns. Secondly, it can make you seem mundane.
Sharing every vulgar aspect of your life is not alluring. It is banal.
Couples involved in an intimate relationship should never take their partner for granted. Cultivating some degree of mystery can help to keep you interesting. Sharing is good.
But mystique can also be prudent.
Speech can be a way to share good feeling and humour. But it is not always positive. Speech can be used to dominate a situation. It can make someone the centre of attention.
Talk can also hide insecurities. Often people talk when they really have nothing to say. Silence is the ultimate mystique.
Not the quietude of shyness or insolence, but rather the wit of the unspoken, the omitted. A subtle facial expression or change in poise can reveal far more than a paragraph of words.
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet.
Sharing information is only worthwhile if your audience possesses the wherewithal to comprehend the significance of what is being revealed.
Items of quality should not be offered to those who are not cultured enough to appreciate them.
Selling yourself cheap
Telling people about yourself or revealing information without prudence can lead people to undervalue your worth. When you share things without caution, others will take you for granted.
Be aloof. Only reveal what you want to reveal to those you want to share it with. Do not be an exhibitionist.
This website contains about 900 pages about tai chi. The information is offered free of charge. Is Sifu Waller selling himself cheap? No. The words he shares are just crumbs from his table.
When considered in the context of the overall syllabus, they amount to almost nothing at all...
In a martial arts class, there is usually a syllabus and a grading structure in place. Students are led through the curriculum, accumulating insights and skills as they progress.
Periodically, their knowledge, competence and understanding is tested.
As they climb up the syllabus, more information is revealed and the student makes connections and associations without the need for as much explicit tuition.
The material feels more significant and the student eventually begins to glimpse the true nature of the art. They cultivate a comprehension that no new starter could share.
Even if an instructor sought to share their every secret with a new student, that knowledge would fall on deaf ears. The apparent mystique is not a poise or an image.
It stems from the reality of learning. We move from the unknown to the known.
The wiser student recognises that the small portions of information known to them are only a glimmer of what might potentially be known. Humility is inevitable.
A new starter may be frustrated by the magnitude of what is unrevealed. They are often impatient and arrogant. They seek a conclusion when it is in fact the process that matters rather than the result.
Inevitably they drown in shallow water.
It can be tempting to read this page and think that travelling to far away places or eating at new restaurants qualifies as the pursuit of mystery. No. That is just novelty-seeking.
True beauty could only be
discovered by one who mentally completed the incomplete. The virility of
life and art lay in its possibilities for growth.
28 April 1997
Last updated 16 June 2023