Skip to main content

Food for thought: Mysteries

From Presence of Mind: Risks and Riddles by Gregory f. Treverton in the June 2007 Smithsonian:

Puzzles can be solved; they have answers.

But a mystery offers no such comfort. It poses a question that has no definitive answer because the answer is contingent; it depends on a future interaction of many factors, known and unknown. A mystery cannot be answered; it can only be framed, by identifying the critical factors and applying some sense of how they have interacted in the past and might interact in the future. A mystery is an attempt to define ambiguities.

Puzzles may be more satisfying, but the world increasingly offers us mysteries. Treating them as puzzles is like trying to solve the unsolvable—an impossible challenge. But approaching them as mysteries may make us more comfortable with the uncertainties of our age.
(Image: Public domain)

Comments

Carmen, I've been lurking more lately because (to be honest) "toddler time" has taken a bigger place than "blog time" and my brain is filled right now with the day-to-day necessities of mommy survival...

But, I have to say, reading your entries always provokes my deeper thinking, the more fine-tuned, sharper edge stuff that brings this mommy back from the edge of being comsumed by considerations of diapers, sippy cups, and macaroni and cheese!

I LOVE this quote! Thank you!
carmen said…
i so get the "mommy survival" thing, heh. glad you stopped by (and i enjoy your blog, too)!
Benjamin Ady said…
I guess this puts chess somewhere between puzzle and mystery, since we have tablebases almost completed for 6 pieces now, with the computing power on the horizon to solve it, but a ways out on the horizon.