Reflections on Responsibility to Magnificence and Mystery

One Approach to Faith in the Inscrutable

Posted Dec 13, 2014

Some thoughts on the magnificence, mystery, and responsibility to creation (Excerpted from my book Rediscovery of Awe (Jason Aronson, 2009): 

“That creation exists at all is magnificent;  and no dimension is exempt--neither the small nor the great, the bereft nor the luxuriant, the obscure nor the indubitable. The span of humanity's hope matches precisely the reach of magnificence....The flipside of magnificence is mystery.  Being is mystery, and so is nonbeing.  They are great but they are fathomless... 

Linked with mystery is responsibility, the challenge to respond.  It is precisely out of uncertainty that we are called to responsibility.  Whereas conventional faith downplays the role of uncertainty, faith in the inscrutable faces it head on.  But what does it mean to face uncertainty head on?  It means that individuals (as opposed to outside authorities) must bear the brunt of decision-making, but it also means that there is a dimension beyond which individuals are able to make decisions....Faith in the inscrutable advocates maximal mobilization of self, the furthest searches into life, and the fullest participation in living, prior to wholesale prostration. The questions for each individual...are:  How readily are you going to go down?  How willing are you to live?  With whom or for what are you willing to live?

To sum, our responsibility is to magnificence as well as to mystery--to hope in doubt as well as to doubt in hope.  To live short of these, is to live short of our birthright and to settle for palliatives.” (pp. 159-162).

--Kirk Schneider is the Author of Rediscovery of Awe: Personal Stories of Profound Transformation and The Polarized Mind:  Why Its Killing Us and What We Can Do About It

PS: This passage was recited at a high holiday service for "The Days of Awe" at Or Shalom Synagogue in the fall of 2013.