In my late teens and early twenties, I found myself exploring astrology, palmistry, and speaking with some psychics. Mostly, I saw it as part of a well rounded education – along with learning about art, history, literature, science and so on. And partly, I had a thought that it would be helpful – or perhaps comforting – to know something about my future.
Knowing about the future
In a conventional view, it’s clear that I cannot know anything for certain about the future. An astrologer, palmistry person or psychic may tell me something, and I cannot know whether it will happen or not. In my experience, something similar has happened a few times, and has not happened other times.
The same is true when my experience tells me something about the future. I may expect someone to smile back when I smile to that person, and it may happen or not. I may expect to wake up tomorrow morning, and it may happen or not.
And the same it even true for science. I may have experienced a book consistently falling to the ground when I drop it, and science may tell me it will because of gravity, and yet, I cannot know it will happen next time I try. It may, and – if I am honest – I see it also may not.
Everything – in my mind – may point to something happening, and it may or may not actually happen. Even when something happens that’s similar to my earlier images, it’s never the same. When I look closer, I see that what happened was something entirely different (mainly because as it happens it’s not an image).
I also see that a desire to know about the future may rest on a series of assumptions:
I need to know about the future. It’s better to know about the future. It’s comforting to know what will happen.
I can know about the future. I can know for certain about the future. I know [….] will happen.
I know what’s good and bad. Some things that may happen (make a list here!) are good, and other things (another list!) is bad.
There is a future. Time exists. Future exists.
I need to know what will happen because…. It will make me safer. I will feel better. I can prepare for it. I can change it.
Taking images of the future as true
And I notice how painful it is to take ideas about the future as true, whether these images point to something I tell myself is desirable or undesirable.
When I have images of something I see as desirable, I may try to manipulate situations to make it happen. I experience stress because it may not happen. I may even become a bit complacent assuming it will happen no matter what.
When I have images of something I see as undesirable, I try to manipulate situations so it won’t happen. I experience fear and stress thinking about it.
In either case, if I take my images of what may or will happen as true, I tend to live as if it will be true, and it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A kind universe
Taking a closer look at this, I see that the universe is kind. I cannot know anything for certain about the future, and that’s very liberating. And I usually don’t have access to information about the future, apart from what experience and science tells me, and that’s also kind.
That said, it’s often helpful to explore scenarios. It’s one of the gifts of imagination and thoughts. I can imagine different scenarios about the future, decide which ones seem desirable and which one don’t, and aim for one and not other ones. In that sense, images of the future – independent of their origin – may be very helpful, especially if I recognize them as simply images, innocent questions about the world.