On mystery

Human beings are intrigued by the unknown and strive endlessly to know more, to clear up the mystery. Yet, we are also plagued by the unknown, the inexplicable, the mysterious. Modern manifestations of pop culture delve deeply in the mystery genre, and weird pop culture delves into cryptozoology and make-believe monsters, trading in ancient astronauts and Bermuda Triangles. Many mysteries are not mysteries at all when seen against the background of real science and rational empiricism. A person disappears, a bank is robbed, someone lies dead in their own living room, a painting is stolen, the power goes out, a window get broken, the car won’t start, your stomach hurts, and you don’t have an explanation for any of it. A letter is lost in the mail, the washing machine breaks, the roof leaks. We have a hundred mysteries around us all of the time: a strange noise in the night, a familiar looking face at the mall that you haven’t seen in twenty years, a ringing phone but no one answers. We are constantly trying to solve one mystery or another. One of the greatest fictional detectives of all times, Sherlock Holmes, is the modern model and poster boy for mystery solving and rational empiricism. Holmes’ success drove his creator, Conan Doyle, to distraction because he had no idea his detective would turn into one of the wildly successful characters of all time. The mystery genre publishes thousands of new titles every year–the reading public can’t get enough. Mysteries are probably popular because the mirror the chaos of daily life, and since we can’t bring order to real life, we live vicariously through the detectives that bring order to their fictional world. We feel better about our own chaos as order is restored when the detective lets us know that the butler did it.