The Power of Mystery

Growing up, I loved the game of Clue and the idea that I could solve a mystery. A tiny part of me secretly wants to be a private investigator, but recognizes that I’d most likely end up following cheating spouses. Whether in stories or real life, mysteries can tug at all the senses. Although I like being stumped, I’m equally excited when I figure out who-done-it in a book or movie.

Although we’re familiar with the mysteries of Stonehenge, Easter Island, and the Roanoke Colony, LiveScience put together a list of the 10 most overlooked mysteries. I hadn’t heard of many of them, but was surprised to see that the story of Robin Hood made the list:

The existence of a forest-dwelling altruistic bandit might seem more plausible then a legendary king with a magical sword. However, the hunt for the real-life Robin Hood has turned up entire scrolls of suspects. For example, candidates include a fugitive in Yorkshire by the name of Robert Hod, who went by Hobbehod as well as a Robert Hood of Wakefield. The growing list of names is further complicated as the name “Robin Hood” soon became synonymous with being an outlaw as in the case of William Le Fevre who’s surname was later changed to RobeHod, according to medieval court records. His possible identity gets cloudier as later authors of the tales wove more characters such as Prince John and Richard the Lionheart into the story.

Huh. I guess Disney wasn’t entirely wrong. Beyond Robin Hood and the other big mysteries we find in history, I’m fascinated by how many small mysteries we give little thought to that make up most of our days. For example, few of us understand exactly how the brain works, but this mystery doesn’t keep us from functioning.

We underestimate the power of a good mystery. Neil Armstrong observed that, “Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.” (link) If Copernicus, Galileo, and other star watchers hadn’t wondered about the mysteries in sky, what are the odds that Armstrong would eventually walk on the moon?

We may never know the significance of the stones on Easter Island or the identity of the real Robin Hood. But the idea that we might some day figure them out…I love a good mystery



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November 2007
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