existential roots: perspectives on psychotherapy

the tangled roots counseling blog

Only Mysteries

"In matters of importance, there are no explanations, no answers, only mysteries." ¹

James D Hardy Jr.

James D Hardy Jr. has taught history at LSU since 1965. As an undergraduate history major, I attended a lecture or two in the 1970s. I recently came across his "Last Lecture, At Least So far." It struck me how much the outlook presented in the lecture has influenced my orientation to the world, and how lucky I was to be exposed to people like him early in life.

Hardy goes on:

"Why are there so few of these moments of pure joy? Why are there so many moments of sin and guilt? I do not know. Why is there more joy in art than in life, as Aeneas tells us? I cannot say. Why are there always flies, and lots of them, in the balm of Gilead? I am not able to explain it. Why is it that daily life often seems so close to chaos, and in large matters, so close to tragedy? I cannot tell. Entire industries exist which are devoted to finding the answer to these and other imponderables concerning the human condition. I remain unconvinced by game theory, probability theory, chaos theory, long-wave theory, and short-curve theory. I suggest the best explanation is mystery."¹

I guess i would add one more question to the above - something like, "Why does it all seem like something wonderful, something to be embraced and celebrated?" And of course my answer is, "I do not know."

I don't trust answers. I do trust mysteries. Sounds crazy but there it is.

I am interested in explanations and answers, but only when considered as having more the character of metaphor than concrete Truth, as working hypotheses to be explored, The novelist Walker Percy said,

" In my last novel, The Thanatos Syndrome, I tried to show how, while truth should prevail, it is a disaster when only one kind of truth prevails at the expense of another. If only one kind of truth prevails, the abstract and technical truth of science, then nothing stands in the way of a demeaning of and a destruction of human life for what would appear to be reasonable short-term goals." ²

Percy was speaking from a Catholic perspective, and I think the statement is valid as a description of the limitations of any "truth" in general.

Many "truths." They're all interesting and sometimes useful. In matters of importance - only mysteries.

The articles in this blog reflect, inevitably, what I think I know (explanations, answers), the working hypotheses that inform my work as a practicing existential psychotherapist.

More importantly, these articles reflect what I am learning, what I don't know, what I'm wondering about, and ultimately, my encounters with the mystery of being alive.

¹ Hardy Jr,. J.D. (2010, October 14). Last Lecture, At Least So Far. Retrieved from http://www.doggesbreakfast.com/lectures/james-hard...

² Percy, W. (1989). Laetare Medal Speech of Walker Percy (1989). Retrieved from http://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/papers/walkerpercy.pdf

Mar 19, 2016, 7:38 AM
What is anxiety? How can we address it?
Feb 22, 2016, 6:56 AM
How is fear distinguished from anxiety, and what is the relationship between courage and fear?
Feb 14, 2016, 11:40 AM
What is the relationship between psychological trauma, awareness, and insight regarding the darker and harsher realities of human existence?
Feb 11, 2016, 11:13 AM
Joseph Campbell relates a 13th century legend to illustrate the essential uniqueness of each individual’s path, as they seek to discover and live the life that is theirs.

contact us

Let me know if you have any comments or questions, or if you'd like to be informed when new articles appear.