One of the things that mankind has been fascinated with throughout history is the concept of an apocalypse or doomsday. Just in the last decade, there have been no less than fifty claims that the world would end on a certain day. The most famous of these include Nostradamus’ prediction that the world would end on July 1999, the Y2K problem that suggested that the year 2000 would cause all computers to malfunction, and many claims that a certain date would be the Rapture – the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. The latest of these doomsday predictions is the one regarding the Mayan calendar. There are claims that on the 21st of December, 2012, the Mayan calendar finishes its 5125-year cycle, leading to a cataclysmic event that will destroy the universe. But of course as usual, this theory is complete and utter nonsense.
Firstly, there are no records that the Mayans predicted that the world would be doomed when the cycle would finish. It is true that December 2012 marks the end of a b’ak’tun – a time period in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar equating to about 394 years, much like how we measure 1000 years by 1 millennium. Essentially, it is like a “turn of the century” for the Mayans. Pretty much the entire concept of the Mayan calendar ending bringing doom to us all was fabricated by some shoddy academics and New Age believers.
Secondly, every theory about how the world might end in such a scenario has been disproven. Some of the most popular “theories” were: the collision of a Planet X or “Nibiru” with Earth, geomagnetic reversal and galactic alignments. However, to this date (20th December, 2012), there are no large rocks or planets hurtling directly towards Earth (would have been noticed by thousands of astronomers worldwide months prior), the magnetic poles are stable (even if they switched it would not cause much harm) and there are no alignments between planets, moons or stars scheduled at the time.
No matter how crazy the theories and predictions are, there will always be people claiming that the world will end soon, and that we should repent our sins or something like that. Even better, there will be a significant amount of people who believe it or at least worry enough about it to affect their lives somehow.
Perhaps the most fitting quote for this phenomenon is something that Martin Luther wrote in his diary at a young age: “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree”. Whether the world is ending or not, live your life to the fullest, seizing every day and making the most of your chances.
Stroke is a disease often associated with the elderly, but this is not necessarily true. As much as 5% of the population carry a ticking time bomb in their brain, known as a berry aneurysm. An aneurysm is a weakening of the arterial wall, causing a localised ballooning of the vessel. A berry aneurysm is a common type of aneurysm where the ballooning resembles a berry. What is most troubling is that a large proportion of these aneurysms can present very early (usually congenital, meaning you are born with it), with one research suggesting that 1.3% of the population in the age group of 20 to 39 has a berry aneurysm. If this berry aneurysm was to burst, no matter how young and fit you are, you will bleed into the area around your brain (subarachnoid haemorrhage), suddenly develop a severe, crippling headache (“thunderclap headache”), become confused, show signs of stroke such as speech or movement problems, or simply drop dead.
Fortunately, only 10% of people carrying a berry aneurysm suffer a ruptured aneurysm and subsequent brain bleed. The other 90% will carry on living their lives, without ever knowing that they had a time bomb in their brain.
Certain factors make the risk of the aneurysm bursting go up, such as high blood pressure, which can be caused by a stressful lifestyle or smoking. But in some cases, as explained above, even a healthy teenager could suddenly drop to the ground with a massive brain haemorrhage.
Berry aneurysms are only one of many ways death could strike unnoticed, no matter how young you may be. You could live a long and healthy life and die peacefully in your sleep when you are 90 years old, or you may have a stroke and drop dead in a few minutes’ time. For all you know, a bus might run you over tomorrow, with no warning whatsoever. Ergo, youth is not an excuse to waste the day you are given. You do not have to achieve something great, or be productive, but at least spend your day knowing that you are doing everything in your power to make yourself happy, without harming your health, your future or other people.
Countless teenagers claim that “you only live once” and use that as an excuse to live a reckless, risky life. Although most adults have the sense to recognise how idiotic and juvenile that sounds, it seems that they live their life as if there is only one chance as well. Too many people give up everything after a big failure messes up their lives, thinking that their life is “over”. For example, if a person has trained to become a mechanical engineer and one day has an accident that prevents them from ever working as an engineer again, the most common response is to fall into a pit of despair. They believe that they are only trained to do the one thing, and not doing it contradicts their life entirely. They are afraid that their life is over – that they are “dead”.
According to a certain statistic, we are capable of learning and mastering something new in 7 years. This means that between the ages of 11 and 88, you have no less than 11 opportunities to be great at something. Ergo, even if one “life” is over, you still have 10 opportunities to start a new life. Some people are too afraid to let one of their lives die and cling to the past, never moving forward to live on. But you have many lives. You do not live once.
Spend a life writing poems, spend a life building things. Spend a life looking for facts, spend a life looking for truth. Be a doctor, a musician, a detective, a chef, a businessman or a wanderer. No life is wasted as long as you are doing what you truly want, while not hurting yourself or others. Never forget that you have numerous lifetimes that are waiting to be seized by you. There will be times in life when you are hit with misfortune, when your life seems to crumbling around you. But that is just life. Realise that you still have the chance to start anew. And in the meantime, enjoy the lifetime you are living. Seize the day, and all the other lifetimes that are lying ahead of you.
A “good fortune teller” is not an “accurate” fortune teller. A “good fortune teller” is a fortune teller who “says good things”. A fortune teller who tells fortunes that are too real, despite warning people of the dangers to come in the future, tends to be ignored and hated on just like Cassandrafrom ancient Greek mythology. Human beings say they fear uncertainty in the future and want some certainty, but they do not want to hear about an unhappy future. This is a normal response. Who would want to hear that they will soon be diagnosed with a terminal illness, or that they will break up with their lover? However, people are fascinating in that they still try to know the future. We go to fortune tellers and read horoscopes to try figure out what will happen to us. But if they receive bad news such as “you will fail your next exam”, instead of studying even more they curse at the fortune teller for giving them a bad prediction. Thus, human beings live among curiosity about their life and fear of the unknown future, while celebrating good fortunes and actively denying bad ones.
The reason why we like to have our fortunes read is similar to why we watch previews of television shows: we are curious about what will happen. But if you ponder this deeply, you soon come to a great epiphany. The further you look out into the future, the clearer this becomes. Everyone eventually dies. A person’s life span is typically not much longer than a hundred years, with everyone meeting the same fate some day.
A fortune teller predicts the ups and downs of a person’s life. If you think about it, life is composed of a series of peaks and troughs that eventually result in death. No matter what misfortune comes your way, it will pass just as seasons come and go. A person who passed an exam is happy and leads a good life, but even if the person fails, they somehow make it through. Unless you give up, a person will continue to live on. C’est la vie. Life is as simple as that.
If the best fortune teller in the history of mankind told your fortune, they would say the following: “nothing matters, live the way you want”. Whether your fortune for the week is good or bad, you will eventually die. There is no point scaring yourself with fortunes, live every day as if it was your last. An uncertain future may be scary, but it also represents infinite possibilities. Just like Schrödinger’s cat, our tomorrows are both alive and dead at the same time. Until tomorrow comes and the box is open, we can never know what the future holds.
So as long as it does not harm you or anyone else, do whatever the hell you want.