Tranströmer and the importance of ‘Mystery’.

Being brought up in a palpably Catholic household, the word mystery has echoed within me ever since I was a little boy. The mystery of the oneness of the Trinity and the mystery of the Sacraments among others. Over the years, I did go through my own interpretations of the existence of the word mystery - at one point I wondered whether the very concept of religious mystery was a way of keeping people away from asking questions or uprooting doctrines that held the the institution of religion together. Mystery, I decided, was opposed to science and clear thinking. Later, I realised that many religious people who subscribe to the idea of ‘mystery’ are not blind or simplistic as I had imagined. Spending time with some of them, I came to see that their yielding to the idea of ‘mystery’ was a very fulfilling answer to a long and arduous search. And in my personal journey, the rekindling of a sense of mystery helped me gradually perceive new dimensions in every part of my life. The Mystery V/s Clarity template now seems like a very simplistic perspective. The irony of finding a certain clarity in the sense of mystery is something worth pondering on.

Much later I began to notice this sense of mystery at play in many of the writers and poets who were least religious in a conventional sense. What triggered off this post was Tomas Tranströmer’s take on mystery in his Paris Review interview. When asked a question about how Tranströmer, a conventionally non religious person, writes poetry that sometimes exudes religious overtones, he brings in the word mystery.

” But you could at least say that I respond to reality in such a way that I look on existence as a great mystery and that at times, at certain moments, this mystery carries a strong charge, so that it does have a religious character and it is often in this context that I write.” - Tomas Tranströmer

He is not afraid or defensive about living with moments where “this mystery carries a strong charge”, something many of us have experienced in love, music, art and spirituality. Something that is essentially beyond what we are - certainly beyond the sum of the parts of what we are.

He then goes on to speak of the larger context of his poems.

” So these poems are all the time pointing to a greater context, one that is incomprehensible to our normal everyday reason. Although it begins in something very concrete.” - Tomas Tranströmer

Somehow, it is evident here that this is not about validating or not validating what we technically know or percieve - but about something more. Yet the joy of it is that it is not all evident. An insightful inscrutability that is often native to poetry. So these days, Tranströmer has set me thinking about the ability to live creatively with contexts and propositions that are “incomprehensible to normal everyday reason.”

If you ask me why now, why me or why Tranströmer, you will be playing into my hands - helping me close this post with the word ‘Mystery’.


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