Looking to Uncertainty

As I am sure everyone knows by now, this Friday, 21 December 2012, has been labeled by some as the date of the apocalypse due to it being the final day in the Mayan Long Count calendar of the 13th and final b’ak’tun of the 4th world. As ancient Mayan culture was being discovered and studied, scholars proposed the idea that the end of a period could mean the end of the world, and now we have a global phenomenon perpetuated by alarmists and skeptics alike. I will not tell you everything will be all right on the coming winter solstice, nor will I become yet another doomsayer. I simply wish to show why I feel the discussion around this apocalypse, along with those that will undoubtedly emerge in the future, is irrelevant. This doomsday talk is the perfect way for me to share just a bit of how I think of time.

The spectacle surrounding the 2012 phenomenon seems to be growing as the date draws nearer. While the sensationalism has been developing since the film 2012 and subsequent television specials, I have been surprised at the number of people who truly believe life as they know it will end on Friday. Almost as surprising, though not completely unexpected, was the fact that NASA and even the U.S. government had to issue statements utterly denying any danger. Of course, these statements are simply necessary in preventing panic, but outspoken skeptics having been jumping into the discussion for some time now and have created an argument. Personally, I think both sides are wasting their time. I do not believe there is any evidence supporting the apocalyptic theory, but I also do not believe there is any evidence against Friday being an end or new beginning or anything else. I think both sides are wrong because they both claim to know what will happen in the future, and this is just not possible. No one can confidently say what will happen two days, two years, or two centuries from now. Our perception of time is limited to the present, an ever-changing existence in which all our experience fits. True, we can look back into the past, and in doing so we will have some notion of what the present once was based on our own and others’ memories. We cannot, however, look forward into the future, for that way is filled with possible presents that may come to pass. That way is muddled with uncertainty.

Imagine I have a multiple-sided object in my hand. I do not tell you how many sides it has, only that each side has a number and that it will land with one side up when I toss it to the ground. I tell you to predict the number that will be showing when it lands. To you, who cannot see it, the object could just as likely have a million sides as six. There is absolutely no way you can make anything but a random guess. No principle of math or science can help you make a prediction because, based on the limits of your current perception, the object does not exist yet. You know it will exist when it leaves my hand, but then it will be too late to make a prediction. You may call out a number–maybe even the right number–but you can never say you know you are right. This object, the future, exists solely as anticipation and uncertainty. You, humanity, cannot see it but know that it is there and that one among infinite possibilities will become the present. Then you will be able to look back from that new present and see yourself in the past, and you may perhaps learn about yourself.

What I mean about the analogy is, you should not be certain about what will happen Friday or tomorrow or in five minutes. It is not sensible to dedicate your present to a specific future. When the future becomes the present, and our current present becomes the past, you will always carry with you those experiences of the bygone presents. I imagine it feels just as bad to be a doomsday advocate waking up on the day after your alleged apocalypse as it does to be a doomsday denier in the middle of a global cataclysm. What really matters is that you live your life in the present in such a way that the past will hold no regrets for you. It is natural to worry about the future and plan for the future, but it is not natural to assume you know the future.

I understand that many of these doomsday enthusiasts truly know what the future holds, and I know the skeptics know that the doomsayers are wrong. I also understand this post likely will not change any of their opinions. I just wanted to give my thoughts on the insignificance of the discussion. I expect this to be the first of many posts on time. I suppose this goes without saying, but I see this blog being around long after December 21.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s