The Mystery Box (a prelude)

The secret of filmmaker JJ Abrams, creator of Alias, Lost, Cloverfield, and the re-imagined Star Trek, is an unopened Tannen’s magic box he bought for $15 (“$50 worth of magic for only $15!”) in a store his grandfather once brought him to. Rectangular and sealed with tape, there is a giant question mark on its flattest face. The box still sits on his work desk, unopened.

“It represents infinite possibility. It represents hope. It represents potential,” said Abrams in a TED talk he delivered in 2008. “Mystery is at the heart of imagination… and sometimes mystery is more important than knowledge.”

This is pretty much what I thought as I walked away from the Taj Mahal last November 7 — the first trip abroad I’ve had in two years.

I missed traveling. Deeply. This is one luxury that has gone by the wayside in the past year and I’ve forgotten how liberating it could be. My mind has become too local, too parochial. I’ve substituted books and websites for the realities they can only attempt to represent. I’ve lulled myself into thinking that life has no more mysteries, that all actions are due to rational self-interest, and that God is dead.

My trip to India taught me the opposite.

God is very much alive. Self-interest can mean selflessness. The joy in life lies in its mysteries.

This is just a prelude. I hope to finally get my thoughts down during the coming long weekend.

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