The uncertain future

The uncertain future

‘I never think of the future. It comes soon enough,’ said the great scientist Albert Einstein. It is a fact that cannot be denied, yet how many of us succeed in keeping these words in mind and acting upon them in day-to-day life?

All of us are eager to gain a glimpse into what the future holds for us, though this may well bring more heartache than happiness. The following story is a good example.

There lived a man whose avid interest in astrology caused him to spend time in gazing at stars. So intense was it that even while walking, he was always looking heavenwards. His friends tried to advise him, but he could not tear himself away from the obsession.

One day he decided to divine his own future. It was night and he walked along staring at the constellations, plotting their movements. To his horror, the stars indicated imminent danger. What could it be? His anxiety mounted as he fixed his gaze even more. Suddenly, he heard a shout and a hand grabbed him roughly.

A stranger cried, ‘Why for heaven’s sake are you walking with eyes fixed upwards? You were about to fall off this cliff!’

‘I was trying to see what the stars had to say about my future,’ the astrologer stuttered.
‘Well, all you needed was to look on the ground. You would have seen the danger of falling off the cliff and killing yourself.’

This is exactly what many of us do – we live in an indeterminate future instead of living in the present. Psychologists have a term for it; it is called anticipatory thinking. Essentially, this kind of thinking falls into two categories. The first one consists of thinking how much better life would be if certain things could be altered. Examples are a promotion, a new job or a better house. Such a change, it is imagined, will make all the difference between a joyless existence and a happy future.

The second type involves anticipating the worst and concentrating on the tragedies that could be waiting down the road. Difficult exams, disease and death are some worries that could rob the mind of peace and quiet.

There is nothing wrong in preparing for a future. It is indeed a necessary part of success. But to fix one’s attention on future to neglect the present is to court permanent stress. After all, an imagined future may not even come true.

The human ability to envisage and prepare for the future is no doubt a valuable one. It has helped us not only to gain greater levels of comfort but also led us on to great advances in living conditions. One should, however, not overlook the fact that our thoughts can lead us into negative paths of thinking and project crises in an imaginary setting.

You are able to enjoy every minute granted to you. At best, the future is uncertain and as the poet Alexander Pope observed, “Heaven from all creatures hides the book of fate .... Oh, Blindness to future kindly given!’

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