Solving the mystery of you

As we tell, and re-tell, ourselves our stories, what genre do we use: drama, romance, comedy, tragedy, farce?

At times, we use every method, but one worth considering is the mystery.

Check out any bookstore. No matter what they have, or don’t, there will be mystery novels — cops and robbers, good guys and bad guys, who did what to whom.

In our mystery, we already know who dunnit — us — but we have to figure out why and how and to do that, we need to be detectives.

The great mystery at the centre of who we are is the same mystery at the heart of the universe.

The as-above-so-below concept applies here.

The universe we see is supposedly one of many, a multiverse, and who can even imagine what lies beyond that seeming infinity. If we turn from the telescope to the microscope and look inward, we find that we are universes that sustain as much life, comparatively, as Mother Earth.

“Your body is a planet,” proclaims Discover magazine. “Of the 100 trillion cells inside each of us, only 10 per cent are actually human.

"The rest belong to aliens: bacteria, fungi, and other microbes. We may not realize it, but each one of us is a walking ecosystem.”

Just as we can destroy Earth, our mini-universe can be destroyed by the life it fosters; the big difference is, we initiate the causes that let the viruses and cancers multiply.

As long as we balance the eco-system, the universe runs smoothly, but when we disrupt the homeostasis with what we eat and drink, by what and how we think, we free our inhabitants to run amok.

If our physical or mental balance is off, our job, as detectives, is to find out why, to delve into the central mystery and in the process of enlarging our awareness, the harmful things we do seem to stop of their own accord. Harmony re-establishes itself.

“One might mischievously argue that God was, in fact, the first detective when he solved the mystery of who bit into the apple before moving on to more serious business in his second case, when Cain and Abel had a somewhat fatal argument,” Maxim Jakubowski wrote in 100 Great Detectives.

One great detective we could use as a model is Phillip Marlowe, the quintessential sleuth, a 20th century knight-errant created by Raymond Chandler.

“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid,” Chandler wrote.

“The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honour. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.”

In other words, a (wo)man who knows himself and exposes himself and his beliefs to unwavering scrutiny, an often painful yet necessary process.

“Before you can ever think seriously of writing creatively, for your own sake, you must establish, as much as humanly possible, the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of yourself,” Gregory McDonald, author of the Fletch series, wrote in the introduction to Writing Mysteries.

“You are the only source of your originality, and the only person who can develop the skill to make that originality of interest or value to others.

“The mystery is perhaps the most explicit of all plots. As with any writing, you pose the question in the beginning, as quickly as possible, and by the end have answered the question as satisfactorily as possible.

The question posed in the mystery form is right on the surface of the work, impossible to miss, Who done what?”

That indeed is a mystery, one that some feel compelled to investigate, to get out a metaphorical magnifying glass and peer into the unknown.

In this case, we are the unknown and in our detecting we will likely encounter the watcher that observes our antics with the bemused detachment of a grandfather watching a two-year-old having a temper tantrum.

Many have no idea what makes us tick, indeed don’t want to know what we believe, what our values are, what our purpose is, and why we do what we do beyond the obvious. It’s easier to perceive ourselves as victims of things beyond our control.

“Many of the brain’s remaining mysteries need for solution mere wiring diagrams, yet a metaphysical halo lingers about the mystery of self-consciousness,” said writer John Updike.

“But within the human, there is a watcher who always recedes, and who answers every question with another question?”

Upon investigation, we discover that when we flow with life, when we don’t resist what happens, the stress and the fear dissipate. It’s a question of mind over matter: when you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. Life, like the traffic we find ourselves in so often, flows along; lights are usually green and there’s a parking spot when we need it.

Then again, maybe not. Maybe nothing has changed except our perceptions and it just seems the world is different because we’re not constantly in a hurry, fighting traffic and life.

If the light is red, we can take the time to appreciate the mystery of the case we’re working on.

The universe would not give us a case we can’t solve. We have the skill, but do we have the will, the desire, and the persistence?

And the solution, once we uncover it, will seem so obvious.

More Transitions articles

About the Author

Ross Freake, a former managing editor of The Daily Courier, has worked at 11 newspapers from St. John's to Kamloops. He is the author of three books and the editor and ghost writer of many others.

He can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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