Comprehending the Incomprehensible

Did you watch the Kentucky Derby? I love watching thoroughbreds run! When filmed in slow motion there is a point in their gait when all four of hooves are off the ground. A thousand pound animal that is flying, literally, around the track. Few creatures can match their grace and athleticism.

Buried in this year’s Derby is a wonderful life lesson! John Velazquez was picked to ride Uncle Mo, a horse that would have been one of the pre-race favorites! But Uncle Mo was scratched late in the race week due to injuries. What then happened is quite something? The jockey slated to ride Animal Kingdom was injured and Velazquez took his place. Of course, the long shot Animal Kingdom, a horse that had never even run on a dirt track wins the race going away, giving Velazquez his first Kentucky Derby win. WOW!

Life’s mysteries have long fascinated me. In my book, Humanity at Work: Encouraging Spirit, Achievement and Truth to Flourish in the Workplace ( Chapel Hill Press 2008), I included a chapter titled “Comprehending the Incomprehensible.” Why? Because we can’t.  I believe the following story contained in my book proves the point,

                      “As many of you know, during the summer of 1999 the eastern portion of the United States suffered one of the worst droughts of the century. In reporting on its effects, NPR interviewed a farmer distraught at being forced to sell his livestock because he could no longer afford to keep them. The reporter then switched to the owner of a vineyard on Long Island who exclaimed that the dry weather was beneficial—he expected the finest harvest in several decades. Actually, he went further than merely expressing his good fortune; he said he “prays” for such weather. Go figure! The answer to one man’s prayer causes untold hardship to another. Are we meant to understand such ironies? Having no answer I gladly defer to the spiritual master Thomas Merton, who professes that he is “comforted” by questions he cannot answer “. . . because the time for answering them has not yet come.”

Imagine, if you can, the roller coaster of emotions John Velazquez must have experienced leading up to The Derby. Having never won the most coveted of all races, he loses the opportunity to ride a pre-race favorite, gets to ride a long shot for certain, and he ends up the winner!

On those days when our lives seem like a parade of fits and starts, learn to accept the mystery of life! John Campbell wrote, “Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.” I take comfort in that teaching, for as Rachel Naomi Remen observed – What often lies on the other side of mystery is awe and wonder! I bet John Velazquez agrees!

About Santo Costa

Sandy Costa is an internationally respected speaker and business leader. Check out Sandy’s website at
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