- By Randy Gilbert
- Published 03/24/2008
You may or may not have been born to superhuman intelligence or super detective skills but one of the first words you probably drove your parents crazy with was ‘why?’. “Humans need mystery and challenges. They motivate us to show our true colors.” So says John Shimmin, archeologist and author of The Manx Grail Chronicles: Mystery of the Templar Treasure. When asked why he writes mysteries, Shimmin said that he wants to engage the reader’s imagination and critical thinking skills. Here are six tips and strategies Shimmin shared about the benefits of keeping mystery alive in your life: 1. Expand your brain. Shimmin holds that our lives are filled with repetitive tasks and passive interests like TV and video. Most entertainment spoon-feeds the brain into a vegetative state. Look for chances to break your routine and find more engaging entertainment. When we read mysteries, we think outside the box or our personal comfort zone. Mysteries are good exercise for our under-worked brains. 2. Learn about truth versus story. Shimmin spent thirty years searching for truth in his archeological studies. What he found was that history is slanted by the person or organization who records it. Shimmins’s advice; “Don’t look to history for truth — history often takes on the agenda of the teller. Mythology may hold more clues to ancient truths than history.”
3. Recognize the truth in story. Truth in stories was a way to pass information
down through generations before the written word was widespread. Mythology has endured for thousands of years, and is based in truth. On the other hand, history is shrouded in opinion; it may be distorted to suit the needs of an organization, as in Catholic religious doctrines. Beyond historical truths, there are truths we can learn about human nature from obvious fantastical tales such as ‘Aesop’s Fables’. 4. Learn how historical events depend on the Author. For example, the Dark Ages were so called because the Catholic Church ruled over people by instilling fear and hoarding knowledge. Any truths which opposed the will of the Church were discounted as heresy and believers were coerced to change their opinions. If they refused, they were banished or killed. 5. Apply mysteries to everyday. From figuring out who stole the last cookie to solving a crime, we encounter mystery all the time. Our brains thrive on answering questions. Solving mysteries keeps us sharp: thinking, deducing and reacting. The easiest way to find a mystery is to do a little people watching. If you’re still struggling, try spending time with a kid. 6. Get a team. Shimmin does not use a Sherlock Holmes character in his plots to solve all of the story’s mysteries. Life rarely has a central hero character who singlehandedly has all the answers or the ability to figure out the mystery alone.
A more realistic approach is teamwork. Recognize and encourage special talents in the people around you. People are a lot more likely to volunteer a talent that they feel is respected.