Like our ancestors before us, we humans share the instinct to search for life’s meaning. Tirelessly, we examine the world through the lenses of science, religion, philosophy, art and poetry.
And yet, for all our findings, mysteries abound. And it is in this unknowing that beauty and magic reside—a reminder that the world is more vast and complex than our intellect can contain. “This is the greatest damn thing about the universe,” wrote author Henry Miller toward the end of a long, prolific life, “that we can know so much, recognize so much, dissect, do everything, and we can’t grasp it.” Journalist Tim Radford sums it up this way: "In a nutshell, the universe is 4% visible, 23% undetectable and 73% unimaginable. Welcome to the cosmos, full of mass you can measure but not manhandle, driven by a force you can infer but not explain".
In his recent book, physicist Sean Carroll echoed this sentiment: “We don’t know
how the universe began, or if it’s the only universe. We don’t know
the ultimate, complete laws of physics. We don’t know
how life began, or how consciousness arose. And we certainly haven’t agreed on
the best way to live in the world as good human beings.”
This week, dear writers, celebrate the unknown. Fashion a short list, borrowing Carroll’s format above: three “don’t knows” and one “we certainly haven’t agreed on…”
And before you begin, be sure to read these beautiful, brave reckonings with the unknown: Helen
This prompt was inspired, in part, by Maria Popova’s recent Brainpickings post.