Why Time Matters. Part 4

Standard

 

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.


 

Advertisements

Why Time Matters. Part 3

Standard

Since the past and present (or study of them) both fall under subjectivist inquiry and may ultimately lead us to a self-serving relativism, we are really left with only one other source of knowledge: the future. I realize that by even mentioning this as a viable alternative, I have stepped outside the realm of modern science into something unprecedented at best, and more likely along the lines of unfounded superstitious beliefs.

Hard science simultaneously preaches the concept of the predictable behavior of matter and an unscripted nature of the future. How does this work? There is an assumption (based on their Positivist foundations) that objects exist only in the present. Just as the past becomes figments of our memory, so the future is only figments of our imagination. Reality exists only in the present. Time travel is a pipe dream. Now, a successful experiment in time travel might be able to change that, but to my knowledge, no such experiment has been received by the scientific community. For them, this option is largely excluded.

Other views exist, and have existed with more precedence than the perspective of hard science. Many spiritual beliefs advocate for the existence of reality set in the future and placed within the context of an overarching meta-narrative in which we play the part of participants and not chief observers or manipulators. Specifics of our participation may vary, but generally all end with the final say to the direction being given to a source outside of us – even if only given in a passive manner. For simplicity’s sake I’m going to refer to two main categories of future-oriented focus: the Prophet and the Mystic.

The Prophet interacts with some form of divine intelligence beyond the normal rules and boundaries of life, gathering insight and wisdom and then becoming a catalyst for the will of the Outsider. The Prophet’s accuracy in prediction is linked to the Outsider’s power to bring about the events of proclamation, or in other words, the prophet is only as good as their god.

The Mystic, on the other hand, acts more as a free agent: interacting with divine others, but with an independent agenda of their own. Mystics are seekers of truth and power beyond the normal scope of natural human experience. The accuracy of their own predictions depends upon their own strength, one of the primary markers setting them apart from prophets.

Now, setting aside the discussion on whether or not divine beings exist and what or who they may be, we have come to a crossroads. We cannot seek enlightenment from the future if we set our epistemology, our way of knowing things, in exclusively objective terms (at least under the current scientific regime and repertoire). Whether we seek truth under the guidance of an outside source as Prophets, or on our own strength as Mystics, we have to transcend our present world if we hope to touch the future.

One more section to go.