So it is that regardless of whether we look to the past, present, or future, there is no absolute certainty regarding what is to come. All of it requires some leap of faith over gaps in the information. How then, do we plan for the future? Is it even realistically possible or are we simply deluding ourselves?
Giving up is a legitimate response. We can crawl into a survival mode, preparing at once for everything and nothing. There may be very real reason for the despair, depression, and anxiety that plague many people who cannot see hope in their future. I’ve heard it said before that pessimists are slightly more in touch with reality that optimists are, and if there is no real way of knowing what tomorrow may bring, there may be some truth to that. Even if that saying is wrong, it would be the pessimists in for a pleasant surprise rather than the optimists caught off-guard by a curveball. Some of us may laugh at the idea of those who make bomb shelters in their basements, preparing for the end of the world – but there may be a semblance of real preparation and security in that kind of attitude. If they are delusional, it is more likely along the lines of their belief that they can do anything to change the inevitable. The bomb shelter mockers might instead choose to live in carpe diem terms, not in that they are somehow optimistic about the future, but believing they lack the power or the motivation to change what might be considered an inevitable outcome.
These options come into play on a daily basis as people receive medical “death sentences”. You have six months to live. Some immediately change their diet and exercise, trying everything to tack on a few more weeks, months, even years – even though the outcome is indeed inescapable. Sometimes they put themselves through a great deal of suffering and indignation in exchange for the possibility of an extension. Others resign themselves to the inevitable and try to maximize the little time they have left, often shortening that time considerably because of the choices they make. Some, choosing to take control of the situation themselves, end their lives intentionally. The thing is though, no one, not even the best of the medical profession, can be entirely sure when death will come knocking and under which pretense. We’re still simply reacting to shots in the dark, not knowing from which way they are fired.
We are not in control of our lives, any more than we are in control of the world around us. That is a fact. So what hope do we have? Our only hope is that there is something in control and that it has vested interest in each of us. Religions that fail to juxtapose power and compassion, justice and mercy, will always ultimately fall short of the hope that they promise. Our reason and technology, devoid of the divine, can promise no more than the power of our own hands, the sharpness of our own minds, or the compassion of our own hearts – in a ironic way, the option of independence, should we choose to live life on our own. Unfortunately, those of us who choose to cast our own lots must bear our own burdens, and extensionally, the burdens of anything else we deem under our own control.
So it comes down to this: if there is any certainty in life, it must come from something outside of us. If there is any security in life, it has to come from some kind of benevolent caretaker overlooking the world. I’m not making a proof for the existence of any particular god(s) here, I’m just putting the cards on the table and letting you compare them to the hand you have been dealt.