July 12, 2024


Elinor saw a boat. We were a few miles from the river and surrounded by trees. How could she possibly see a boat? She has good eyes, but I don’t believe she has x-ray vision.


Not wanting to discourage her by simply stating she was wrong, I tried to explain why she could not possibly see a boat. I explained that boats need water so they can move around properly. Satisfied with my explanation the exchange ended and we both moved on.


Later, as I reflected on the exchange, I realized that I had offered an incomplete truth. It is true that boats need water to work best, but they are not always on water. Boats can be washed ashore, boats can be hauled around on a trailer, and of course boats can be seen in our imaginations.


Being okay with incompleteness has always been a challenge for me. I like easy to understand, hard facts, that I can sink my mental teeth into. I like it when something is clearly and fully explained. And I continue to seek it in all things.


It is this search that has lead me into philosophy, and this search that has occasionally lead me to madness. All of the most interesting things in life are incomplete. Furthermore, they will likely always be incomplete.


When it comes to the human body, mind and spirit our explanations are often incompletely. And there in lays the challenge and what appears to be the lies. The overlooked assumption of completeness. When someone offers you their theory on the meaning of life it encompasses what they have considered and excludes what they have ignored. We tend to operate this way because truly encompassing the ‘all’ of these great mysteries is daunting at best and impossible at worst.


This is even true on science and physics. When describing large bodies from a baseball to a planet there is a theory that works for that, newton’s laws of motion. You can calculate gravitational pull and other factors with his equation and laws… But they are incomplete. And when you travel down to the molecular level they completely fall apart and we’ve developed additional models to try to explain how they operate. But they don’t work when you scale up again. They are all incomplete.


So while it is frustrating for me to struggle with the great mysteries and their incompleteness. My struggle for completeness is also part of the driving force that keeps me searching and seeking.  And with that thought in mind I am aware of the blessing of incompleteness. If everything was explained and correctly understood there would be no joy left in the search. So I make peace with incompleteness while at the same time embracing the drive that it provides.


The important things in life are all incomplete…


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