The Need For Mysteries

(Originally posted 30th July, 2004)

Have you ever wondered about some of those famous mysteries,things like the Bermuda Triangle, UFOs or Bigfoot? Are they real, or are they just figments of our collective imagination?

People have spent inordinate amounts of money trying to get to the bottom of these things and science is always looking for ways to explain them away rationally. But sometimes I wonder if there actually is a rational explanation and what it will mean if we actually find out what it is.

As technology develops, people are figuring out more and more about the world around us. For the most part, this is a good thing. We have better medicines, longer life spans and diseases that used to be completely fatal can now be recovered from. The Internet lets us communicate with people on the other side of the planet in real time, allowing solid friendships between people who have never even met. GPS systems let us know where we are in the world to within a few feet, meaning that people never have to be lost again.

But all this advancement does have a cost. Where is the wonder in people’s lives these days? All this science and technology has completely removed the need to even think about what lies over the next hill. There’s not much in the way of exploring to be done anymore either; just about every square inch of the planet has been mapped by satellite or aerial photography.

The thing is though, not knowing something is what has traditionally driven humans to explore and to dream new dreams. Trying to figure out what might be is actually more enjoyable than knowing what is. Exploring the possibilities of a situation with our imaginations gives us insights into other factors of our lives, and sometimes we can learn some surprising things about ourselves in the process.

I suspect that even if scientists manage to come up with explanations for nearly everything, other things will pop up to provide our imaginations with something to wonder about. UFOs are predominately a product of the twentieth century. Are they super-secret planes, or are they visitors from another planet? Even if the explanation for UFOs is found, I’m sure that something else will take its place.

After all, we’re just one small insignificant planet in an awesomely vast universe. Once we figure out how to get off this rock, there’s going to be a massive amount of exploration and explanation that needs to be done as we head out from our own solar system.

And I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the maps that get produced have the modern equivalent of “here there be monsters!” on them.