I must have a thing for the letter B. First and foremost are the
books. They’re everywhere. Then there are the bunnies, of course. (One
is hopping on the bed next to me as I write.) If you’ve ever seen me
leave work at night, then you know how fond I am of bags. One for the
camera, a purse, one for my lunch, one for my knitting, and a big one
for the aforementioned books. I dream of a house with a long hallway
wall. It will be covered in pegs and my bags will hang there, ready
Many of the shelves here at our house hold not just books, but little
boxes as well. I put things in there for safekeeping. Shells,
beachglass, fortunes, little mementos for the future. Sometimes I open
one and get a little surprise. But given the choice, I would rather
not open the box. Any box. Sometimes I am happiest just imagining what
is inside. Like Schrödinger’s cat, it could be anything inside, and at
the moment it is true. It is both there and not there–until I open
it. I am like this with presents. I would much rather sit it somewhere
close and admire the packaging. I love the mystery.
A few years ago when I was deep in my school studies, I came across an
article that JJ Abrams wrote for Wired magazine. He talked about how
the world is moving away from mystery. If you need to know anything,
you just google it, rather than try to guess what the answer might be.
He also commented on our society’s new found love of shopping online.
Doing so, he wrote, deprives us of stumbling on to something else.
Gone are the days of getting on the bus, stopping at the record store
and shuffling through the bins. The same could almost be said of CDs
and music stores. So much of today’s music is downloaded directly and
you can choose songs individually rather than buying the whole album.
Which really means no cover image, or liner notes, or slowly falling
in love with a song you thought you hated. Remember that, listening to
a certain album in order and slowly gaining an appreciation for the
order of the songs and knowing instantly which song comes next, even
before it started playing? There’s something to be said for
accidentally discovering and then appreciating what you hadn’t even
I enjoy watching JJ Abram’s television shows and his movies. I admire
his willingness to assemble all the pieces for his creation. How he
will strive to find the right effect even if it’s something so
basic–because up-to-the-moment technology is not always the best fit.
I once saw a TED talk by Abrams in which he centered his discussion
around the time he went to a magic store when he was little. He bought
a box with a question mark on the outside, but who knows what inside.
It could have been anything. At the time of the talk, it was decades
after the purchase and he still hadn’t opened it. To him “It
represents infinite possibility; it represents hope; it represents
potential… mystery is the catalyst for imagination… maybe there
are times where mystery is more important than knowledge.” A man after
my own heart. In his words: “Perhaps that’s why mystery, now more than
ever, has special meaning. Because it’s the anomaly, the glaring
affirmation that the Age of Immediacy has a meaningful downside.
Mystery demands that you stop and consider—or, at the very least, slow
down and discover. It’s a challenge to get there yourself, on its
terms, not yours.”
We can presume, suppose, guess or even assume (though we all know what
happens when you do that…) but the real knowing comes from opening,
and that eradicates the mystery. Leaving us with the answer, which may
or may not be the one we were anticipating. The surprise is gone. I
guess the real question is, which do you value more, the knowing or
Tonight at dinner, while paging through the latest issue of The
Writer’s Chronicle, the article by Alix Ohlin caught my eye. Or more
specifically I couldn’t help but notice the neon arrows pointing to
these sentences. “Often, the gap feels ambiguous, mysterious; and that
mystery, deftly handled, is also the source of its power. An open
drawer offers us sound; a closed one keeps us thinking about what’s
inside.” The article is about silence and she begins by writing about
her visit to James Cardiff’s Cabinet of Curiousness. To me it looks
like a library card catalog. It emits a different sound each time a
drawer is opened, and is exactly the type of piece a librarian like
myself would be attracted to. If I had it here, I imagine this would
be something I would want to open, if only for the thrill of hearing
those sounds replicated again and again.
After dinner I picked up our newly purchased advent calendar and took
off the wrapping, readying it for Saturday, as if advance preparation
were somehow necessary. I looked at the animals and tried to imagine
what was underneath each number. It’s not the chocolate kind, merely
one with cute pictures underneath. I hesitate to say that we have
outgrown them here, for clearly I bought us one again this year. If I
have a moment in the next few days I will carefully descend the stairs
in our cobweb covered basement and try to locate the box in which I have stored all
the calendars from previous years. I like to have them all on display
and make a game for us of opening several doors each day. But tonight
it took every ounce of willpower I had not to open the first door of
the new calendar. I guess the mystery will have to wait a little while
longer. Now I’m counting down the days to December 1. Maybe I need an
advent calendar for my advent calendar. Now there’s an idea.