Guy: "You're A Mystery To Me!" Gal: "Well, That's Your Problem!"

Life abounds with mysteries, little and large. It also bulges with problems, little and large. What’s the difference? Perhaps this. Problems are to be solved wherever practical; mysteries are to be embraced whenever possible.

Among today’s scorchingly hot problems are: jobs, budgets, taxes, education and drugs. Look far enough and there are experts with solutions for each. The solutions come wrapped inside facts and stats and projections as to how over time they will work. Trouble is the projections are almost always too ambitious, and when the results don’t materialize fast enough, the experts are replaced by other experts. And so the cycle goes. As Hemingway once put it: “Critics are experts who watch a battle from a high place, then come down and shoot the survivors.”

Then there are the mysteries. Judaism’s Moses…Christianity’s Virgin Birth…Islam’s visions of the Prophet….mos enduring, the mystery of a love between a man and a woman. That last one has for centuries been the exclusive domain of novelists, poets, and eventually Hollywood. Lately though, evolutionary biologists are crowding the act with their theories of how-my-genes-made-me-do-it.

If all that weren’t enough, humanity is continually stuck with mysteries that are problems that are mysteries…! Right now three come to mind: Technology, Higher Education, and Marriage:

* Technology’s benefits are wondrous, and yet are we raising a generation of twenty-somethings whose craving for instant-gratification from Facebook, 3-D video games, and pornography is re-writing their brains in ways that require constant stimulation? Stimulation in lieu of leaving home, finding a job, and pursuing a career?

* College, traditionally the goal of middle class American families, is now up for debate by those whose appetite for instant-gratification turns their eyes to Silicon Valley where fast millions look better than years of study.

* Marriage too has been a traditional middle class goal. Now — straight or gay — it no longer lures lovers with the old values of commitment and constancy. Those too fail the instant-gratification test.

Hard to play expert here when expertise so often falls so short. However, it may help to remember that both mysteries and problems exist in our lives, lives which are always lived as long-distance runs not sprints.

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  • The first two are related. For that matter, for the last 25 years, technology--especially video games--has satiated the needs of those about 4 years old and up. It was about in the last 10 years that every child whose parents could afford a cell phone had one.

    As far as college education, the question essentially is whether those grade schoolers have enough technological background that they can bypass college. After all, Zuckerberg went to Harvard. But, as other stories over the weekend indicated, going to college for liberal arts or social sciences isn't going to get one a job, and maybe the "potential customers" (how colleges really view students) have figured that out.

  • In reply to jack:

    The sad thing about education today is that we tend to see it mainly as a springboard for gainful employment. Making a living indeed is important, but even more important is making a life.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    When it becomes a political issue whether graduating students can afford to pay back their student loans (and the concomitant issue is that college pricing policies are to suck up all the federal aid that is available, including student loans), it isn't sad, but inevitable.

  • BTW, Jack, I just saw HBO's "Hemingway and Gellhorn" and this amazing film has rekindled an interest in Hemingway and created a new one in Gellhorn.
    Your Hemingway quote fascinates me. In what context was it said or written?

  • Aquinas ~ It's reported to have been said during the 1937 Spanish Civil War. A complicated guy who grew up in Oak Park, just a few minutes from where I and buddy Bob Newhart grew up in Austin

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