Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Mystery and mystery everywhere

I just finished reading Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code'. The book is an engrossing thriller wherein the author has done a lot of research to give a look of authenticity to his story line. The book is essentially about the Holy Grail - sangraal - as it is known in old French.

The story or rather the legend of the Holy Grail has been one of the more enduring modern legends in the world. Even as a non-Christian, I find the Grail lore engrossing and interesting. Originally the Grail is supposed to be the cup or chalice from which Jesus drank during the Last Supper. Or it was also the cup that held Jesus's blood as he was being crucified.

'The Last Crusade' showed Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones recovering the relic for a brief fleeting moment of time and lose it forever after showing a glimpse of its power. I saw that movie 14 years ago and have watched it many times since - but it is one really interesting movie.

But the question I have is a more fundamental one - why are we interested in the Holy Grail ? A more fundamental question is - why are we humans so interested in mysteries ?

To answer the former question - firstly the Holy Grail has been an enduring mystery for the past couple of millenia. Secondly, this is allegedly the cup or the thing that bestows everlasting life to one who possesses it. And of course, since it purportedly belonged to Jesus, this religious relic is invaluable.

More than anything, I think it is the first reason why it is so interesting. Anything becomes really interesting if there is an aura of mystery around it. I don't know if Mona Lisa is a plain painting or not - but I found myself googling on the internet to get a good image of the painting to see what was so mysterious about it. So even I am one of those people that hanker after mysteries.

One question is why do we leave our normal courses of action and immerse ourselves so deeply if we find that there is a mystery waiting to be heard ? We are not so interested in finding an answer to it as we are in speculating about the different possibilities. This basic Human curiosity is what I am basically curious about. If we know something completely, we lose interest in it. If we don't know anything, we don't care because we really don't know. But in case of something that is seemingly known and yet unknown, we express curiosity to satisfy our thirst. But once that is known, we may actually not be so interested in it. Case in point - a feeble example - but conveys what I have been thinking. Suppose we are watching a recorded game but don't know the results we are really engrossed and want to know the results. But once we know what the results are - we really don't want to watch the game as much - of course, I am not considering cricket afficionados who relish every shot multiple times. The excitement in anything is always because of something we perceive to be unknown to us.

The Unknown is the cause of fear too. That is the reason why we fear Death. If each one of us had really known what happens after Death, we wouldn't be really afraid. When I say really known - I mean not knowing bookishly or intellectually but having actually experienced something like that.

But at the same time, if we consider that we know and understand something, we don't bother about it even if it is more mysterious than anything else. For example, how many people are really interested in knowing about the Sun ? Most people see the Sun rising and setting and think that that's all there is to know about it. But isn't there enough stuff to know about the Sun ? Well, I suppose it takes a knowledgeable person to know what is unknown.

Even more fundamental is our Self. We know we exist. We act and react. Yet we are so hopelessly caught in other things (such as blogging now! ;-) ) that we really pay no attention to who we really are! This for me is in itself a great mystery! One is that question that can be answered by each individual for himself or herself - who am I ? The other is how can we claim to feel and act if we really don't know who we are ? Isn't that a wonder ? But the answer to the first question may lead us to an answer to the second. Or the answer to the first question may answer all questions or even remove the desire to question or for anything else!

But Mystery, I feel, is what makes Life interesting. If everything was known - what fun would it be ? Of course - I should define 'fun' too and if it is absolute or relative. Let's not go there now.

Another serious question that suddenly popped in my mind is - what does it mean when we say we know ? What is the process of knowing ? What is the relation between the knower and the known ? Serious questions to ponder about. If somebody reads this - I'd like to know what you think.

|| iti sham ||

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