When I was a teenager, music was my life (classical music to be specific). I started playing the old Yamaha piano our family had and started learning pieces on my own based on whatever little skill I already had from when I took lessons years ago. I was completely intoxicated by music and listened through my father’s collection over and over again. I discovered wide range of new pieces on the Internet and joined an online community of fellow piano players to talk endless about the hobby we love. I started taking lessons and I imagined myself becoming an accomplished musician and a composer. My fantasies started to get more and more vivid and grand. My instructor, too, told me that I had the potential to become someone great. I imagined myself achieving the genius status among the big names in classical music, and I just knew that I was going to start a new era of musical creativity. Or so I thought.
But none of that happened. As much as I imagined myself heading towards my dreams by being driven by my passion, it just didn’t materialize. I didn’t practice and study consistently, my skill level was going nowhere, I started losing interest, and—in a symbolic move—my piano was eventually sold. I still kept the music books and sheets in hopes that I will one day return to playing piano once I am “ready” (an illusion), and I did started playing again here and there using a public piano that I could rent, but it was too late by then to salvage anything. It was over. Life moved in a much different direction than what I had imagined.
I could repeat this story in many variations with various other hobbies, interests, and dreams I had. Like the languages I wanted to learn, the lifestyle I wanted to achieve, exciting careers I wanted to start, being a fan of certain sports teams or music band for the rest of my life, having the same friends I had, maintaining the same political ideology for life, living in the same place that I grew up in, and so on. But none of them lasted like I imagined they would. They all came and went away. It seemed whatever I tried to grasp onto eventually passed away into oblivion. Even after all those experiences, I still have fixed plans for the future and have interests that I think will last for decades to come. So, perhaps, this illusion is just a part of being human: to want to believe.
Beyond my own humble life, we can observe this in our world as well. History has shown that great empires would rise and expand as though there are no limits only to collapse and disintegrate, often in the most dramatic fashion. The ancient Persians, who at the time created the greatest empire ever, were seemingly invincible until they were stopped. Alexander, who conquered Persia, was also stopped in his tracks due to his premature death even though he himself probably believed that nothing could stop him. Muhammad and his devoted followers spread Islam like wildfire and probably believed that they were destined by God to guide the world under the same faith, but they, too, had their destiny thwarted and became conquered peoples. The brutal Mongols swept across Eurasia and brought death and destruction to everyone and everything that stood in their path. It seemed they would never stop expanding until they finally did. They have failed to even establish a lasting legacy. The Soviets and the Nazis of more recent times also thought their political religions will rule supreme to establish a new order that will last for eternity. The Soviet Union collapsed in less than a century on its own and the ‘Thousand Year Reich’ lasted a mere twelve years. No matter what we think is the set path, it seems even human ambitions fail to follow through with it. The world works in mysterious ways.
To use more recent examples from our world of today, we have people who naively believe that there is some sort of a right-wing and nationalist backlash that is unstoppable. Just because Brexit happened and Trump was elected (mostly due to Clinton’s corruption), they believe there is some sort of a momentum that will eventually “defeat” their enemies: the Left. Some also follow this with all sorts of wild fantasies involving the revival of the West (as if that’s possible at this point) and the creation of white-nationalist states. But nothing of that sort has happened and will not happen. Recent election losses of far-Right parties in Netherlands and France, in spite of the belief that they will win because all polls are “fake”, show that not everything is as predictable as it seems.
On the other side, the Leftists seem to think that they’re on a sure path to a utopia where people live in a world of prosperity ushered by modern technology. They believe that once everyone is free from hate and prejudice along with inequalities of all types, the world will eventually resemble their dreams in spite of how contradictory it is to what’s happening in the real world. Their technological utopia is doing nothing but making the elites even more powerful while turning the commoners into slaves, and they have not predicted that there would be a backlash to their dreams as more and more people are getting fed up with forced immigration and integration along with the suffocating culture of political correctness.
Now, I’m not saying that none of what the Right and Left imagines the future to be will ever materialize. It could, in fact, be possible that one or the other scenario will eventually come to fruition (although I think the most realistic scenario is the continuing polarization of the Left and the Right leading to unrests with the world coming into conflict over scarce resources). But given what we know about how unpredictable we humans are and how what we imagine usually don’t happen like we wish, shouldn’t we be more prudent about what to expect from the future?
I think the important lesson here is that we must always keep in mind of the brevity of all things in life including life itself. The world is changing very fast and the future is more uncertain than ever before. We never know if something unexpected will hit us and flip our world upside down in matter of days. I doubt that the French aristocrats, the Russian Tsar, or the Shah of Iran ever expected a revolution that would overthrow their rule. The world dictated by humans don’t necessarily follow a momentum or a trajectory like in the world of physics. Our lives and the social world that we have created are much more unpredictable due to their irrational nature and we should do well to keep that in mind.