Jonathan Dodd: What’s your predestination?

Jonathan Dodd returns with his Sunday column and as always, it’s a great ‘long read’. See whether you agree with him on this week’s subject.

welcome to the future

Jonathan Dodd’s latest column. Guest opinion articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the publication. Ed


It has always amazed me, the way that humans are capable of completely juxtaposing what’s happening to them and how they feel about it. I’ve known people completely happy about losing everything, and miserable after winning the lottery. I feel sometimes like my life is subject to some kind of cycle of good luck, followed by bad luck, and so on, and at the same time my interior cycles are doing the same thing, but they’re all out of sync with each other.

I don’t know if any of this is true, but it feels like it, which is good enough for me. I certainly don’t attribute any of my internal or external luck to any supreme being, or even a sub-supreme being. I’m not superstitious about anything, and as far as I’m concerned everything is probably just numbers and coincidence. I am deeply religious but not in the way most people are, so I’m stuck with the laws of science and the forces of nature.

We know very little about anything
I will accept that we know very little about anything, and every day someone discovers something more about something to add to the sum total of our collected and collective knowledge, and we’ll probably go on doing just that for thousands more years, without discovering anything really astonishing. Don’t get me wrong; we’re doing pretty astonishing things already, and we’ve cracked some of the big questions. But we’ve got a long way to go yet.

past present and future

I don’t know where it’ll end, if it does, and I don’t know whether we’ll ever grow up and be the beings we should be, and I don’t know where it all came from either. So for me it’s like time itself. The past doesn’t exist, because it’s gone, and we’re free to reinterpret it to our heart’s content. It’s not going to ague. The future doesn’t exist either, because it’s always just beyond our fingertips, and it never does what we want it to. And the present used to be where I just wrote ‘present’, but that’s the past now. I can see it receding in the distance, like lights in a tunnel. There it goes.

We can surf a wave of happiness for days on one of those moments
Life is like an old-fashioned record. The needle is the present, the record is time, and the sound coming out of the speakers is how we feel about it all. We can remember some of it. I’m remembering one bit right now. Paul Simon again. ‘God only knows. God makes his plan. The information’s unavailable to the mortal man.’ Slip Slidin’ Away. That man really knows how to write a lyric.

surfer

Anyway. Back to moods. I can sometimes trace one of my mood swings to a specific moment, but mostly they’re just there. Some people think it’s all about chemicals and internal balance, and they might be right, but I think it’s more like a combination of your mood and your chemicals. Sad chemicals make you feel listless, being tired makes bad chemicals, and vice versa. We can sometimes catch the downward slide and reverse it, or something will make us unexpectedly happy, and we can surf a wave of happiness for days on one of those moments.

A linear version of those cogwheeled drawing toys
I’m just as prone to these things as anyone else. I do believe that we have several cycles going on inside, and they don’t necessarily relate to each other. I once read a book called Biorhythms, and there were charts for various things. You were encouraged to make measurements on a graph and join the dots into a series of waves, all going at different speeds and durations. It looked quite pretty, but I forgot all about it until just a minute ago. It reminded me of a linear version of those cogwheeled drawing toys I used to use as a child. Keep on going, and you’ll eventually come back to the point where you started from. There was a name for that in my Biorhythm book. I remember that there was, but sadly I don’t remember the name for that moment.

Spirograph set

It’s harder to chart the external tides in our lives. I have a sneaky feeling that there are no tides, and no predestination, and no guiding hand. Just things happening and affecting other things. I say that, but I do know someone who makes a living producing Astrology Charts for people. She’ll produce an amazingly complex chart, and attribute all sorts of qualities and character quirks, and history, and for a little more money she’ll record it all too. I met her when someone bought me a chart reading as a gift.

A completely unique set of universal co-ordinates
I was amazed not only by the amount of information, but also by the accuracy of some of it. And I was knocked out by some revelations which I had never breathed to another living soul. No. I’m not going to tell you what. I have to say here that I’m not fascinated by the stars and their influence on my internal spiritual make-up, and I don’t believe in celestial bulls or twins or fish. But I did notice that I was asked for specific co-ordinates that were used to fix the chart itself. These were in the standard four dimensions, and consisted of my place of birth, and my time of birth, as accurately as possible.

Scatter_plot by UCRL

Yes. I know. Everybody gets asked that. But if you imagine the universe as a very large three-dimensional space, frozen at the time of my birth, you could plot the position of my place of birth very precisely. High, wide and deep. That would produce a completely unique set of universal co-ordinates. The chances of someone else being born at the same moment in the same place would be pretty small.

I think that would be a thing of beauty
So. Once you get that idea in your head, you can imagine that every second that passes alters the position of everything, so you need to take another snapshot of the whole universe for the next second, and another for the one after that, and so on. If you plotted my position at every moment of my life, or lives, my spirit would trace an arc through the three-dimensional representation of the universe. I don’t know about you, but I think that would be a thing of beauty, and I’d very much like to see it.

Signs of the zodiac

I remember a science-fiction book I once read, where the navigator of a space ship charted their position in space within a large brick-shaped representation of everything, in just the same way. They called it ‘the Tank’. I imagine, in my Astrology–based version, that certain spatial co-ordinates might be influenced in some unique way, and that’s how I might argue for Astrology, rather than by waffling on about the stars and the planets. But I don’t really think so. I just like the concept of a vast four-dimensional array. How could anyone not be attracted to that?

All my biometric data could be beamed up to satellites
Sadly, that sort of information is unavailable to me as well, so I don’t know. And I haven’t got the mental capacity to make a matrix of all my moods and my environmental influences. I suspect that even if I did, it wouldn’t reveal anything amazing to me. I could be wired up, and all my biometric data could be beamed up to satellites and then down to an enormous database, like the metrics generated by your new car, storing Big Data about you and your habits. I would probably be fascinated, even though I would essentially lose all my privacy. I sometimes wonder whether that’s what’s going to happen to all of us, individually and en masse, as we move towards the Brave New World that’s constantly rebuilding itself in front of our eyes, every second of every day of our lives.

Fitbit

We might shudder at this, but those who grow up with it will be quite comfortable, and they’ll use it to their own advantage, making their own lives in their own environment as they grow, just as fish and birds and earthworms do, but cleverer. Maybe. And perhaps it has all been written down, like God’s Plan in Mr Simon’s song.

What good is a map if you forgot to buy one?
The thing about predestination is that you can only prove it’s true by finding the book, and seeing what’s been written there about your future. But if the book isn’t findable, or if it’s locked away, it might as well not exist. What good is a map if you forgot to buy one? I’ve been thinking about this. The person who believes in predestination has no idea what’s going to happen. The person who believes that there’s no plan, and nobody moving us around on a big chess board, also has no idea what’s going to happen. I think we can agree on that.

toy man on map

So there’s no actual difference between our actual experiences of life, or our own power to influence them, except for one specific thing. The person who believes it’s all planned has the comfort of believing that everything happens for a purpose, even though they don’t know what that purpose is. The person who thinks it’s all just action and reaction prefers to believe that they’re not a victim of celestial plottings. So when bad things happen, they don’t need to blame anyone, they just get on with their life.

I find that comforting
So the major difference between us all is not what happens, but how we comfort ourselves about the things that happen.

sofa on the beach

And of course, we always have the choice to behave nobly or not. I don’t know about you, but I find that comforting.

If you have been, thank you for reading this. You were probably always going to. Or not.


Image: pixabay under CC BY 2.0
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Image: UCRL under CC BY 2.0
Image: Wellcome Trust under CC BY 2.0
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Image: pixabay under CC BY 2.0

Opinion Piece

Sunday, 12th November, 2017 9:10am

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