Back when I was in journalism class in college I worked for the school’s student newspaper. I remember being assigned a background feature on the French philosopher/theologian Gabriel Marcel whose appearance on campus was coming up as part of a lecture series. There was no interview, but I did my homework, wrote the article, and that was that – about 40 years ago. Of course Marcel is long since dead but just last week a priest quoted him as the basis for his homily. It was the first time I’d heard his name mentioned in a long time. The quote was: “Life is not a problem to be solved. It’s a mystery to be lived.”
If we approach life as a burden to be tolerated, as a maze to be negotiated, as a case to be solved, etc., we don’t get it. However, if we approach life as a wonderful opportunity to love, then we understand the basis for the “mystery” of life. Life’s “problems to be solved” are created by us. They are inevitable and we have to deal with them. No matter how reclusively contemplative we are, life will present problems to be solved; but life does not exist because of them. They exist because of life.
Maybe more than anything else life has to do with the acceptance of what we don’t fully understand. The mystery is contained in the simplicity of that which we would complicate. If we live the mystery with love and acceptance we have nothing to “solve.” Even in the idea that, “Life is God’s gift to me; what I do with it is my gift to God,” there is an implicit hint that it’s like a problem to be solved in figuring out “what to do with it.” Even that wonderful expression can be misleading if we puzzle over its meaning too intensely. The mystery is how it can be true that all we have to do is accept and embrace life in the spirit in which it is given. The truth of this is mysterious to those who cannot believe its simplicity – to those who prefer to complicate it. The mystery of the gift of life asks for acceptance, not solutions.