Closure: The Itch You Want To Scratch, But Can't.

This past weekend Josh came down to good old Woodland and visited me for the weekend. We had a wonderful time eating overpriced Mongolian food, drinking themed martinis and watching a bad vampire movie on tv starring Josh Hartnett. One of the movie theaters I grew up going to see movies (and trying to sneak into R-rated movies) at has recently become a three-dollar theater, and since Josh and I are frugal (aka cheap), we decided it would be a great chance to see “Shutter Island” on the big screen. It was a really suspenseful movie, and, without giving too much away, I’ll just say that the ending was kind of ambiguous.

As much as I try to appreciate the artistry of, and the intention behind, ambiguous movie endings, I usually just come away from the movie with an uneasy feeling in my stomach that I suspect is a manifestation of my wanting to have closure. I want explanations, I want facts, I want to understand how and why things happened the way they did. Does anyone else get this feeling?

It got me thinking about closure, and whether or not it’s a universal human trait or just a cultural thing. I really do think it’s an inherent human quality to want to have closure, to want to have an explanation for the way things are. One of my professors once said that we are the “explanation generation” because we don’t want anything to be mysterious to us; we want to know and understand how everything works. Hence, shows like CSI, that explain down to minute details the way a particular situation played out, ad nauseum. But I think generations before us have had that craving for understanding as well, and they’ve just looked for answers in different places. It seems that Americans tend to look to science more and more for answers and for an ultimate truth, but many have looked to government or religion or nature for the same ultimate truth.

Why do humans have such a difficult time accepting mystery? Maybe acknowledging mystery takes away a person’s sense of control over their own lives. Whether someone looks for explanations through the scientific advancements of their nation, or whether they look for explanations through a witch doctor or the mythology of their tribe, it makes no difference which is the real truth: it is true for the person believing it, and that puts that person’s soul at ease. There are so many ambiguous elements floating around in the universe, things that can never really be proven for certain, but it seems to give life more meaning, a brighter glow, when we can put our faith in something, anything. In fact, studies have shown that people who are practicing members of any religion are generally happier people than those who are atheists. In a way, I guess a feeling of security comes from releasing yourself from the responsibility of figuring out the universe on your own, by relying on someone else’s already-established answers.

But I think that there is something beautiful about resting in mystery, resigning yourself to the fact that you don’t know, can’t know, and being at peace with it. It’s something that I wish I could do more often in my life. We are not meant to know it all; we are not Gods. We are just the little mortals that get to experience the mystery, but when we try to explain it away we deface it, put it in a box that is not meant to contain such awesomeness, just so we can feel better, like little Gods. It’s a shame sometimes.

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