Sunday, June 27, 2004

Mad Curiosity

It is the "mad curiosity of our nature which wastes time trying to seize hold of the future as though it were not enough to have to deal with the present." Such is Montaigne's opinion on prognostications, not to be confused with prestidigitation or procrastination. While I agree with Montaigne that trying to predict the future is "empty nonsense," I am unable to declare as Horace does, "That man be happy and master of himself who every day declares, 'I have lived. Tomorrow let Father Jove fill the heavens with dark clouds or with purest light'...Let your mind rejoice in the present: let it loathe to trouble about what lies in the future." I need to know, am I going to need an umbrella or my sunglasses? It is human nature, however silly, to want to know the future. What if, for instance, my tarot cards are right and in the fall I do come in to a large sum of money? Isn't it good to be prepared for something like that? We all know what trouble Oedipus got into because of the Oracle's prediction, but we would know better. We would do differently. Knowing the future almost relieves us of any kind of responsibility--the Fates have decreed that my car will be stolen before the next full moon so why should I bother locking it, or heck, why bother taking the keys out of the ignition? The idea of free will is a heavy burden; it is our own fault for whatever befalls us, we cannot blame Fate. This, however, doesn't keep us from blaming someone else--God, our parents, the aliens from Delta Quadrant, the computer. My rational mind says, "Montainge, you're the dude!" and wants to sit back with him and laugh at all the dupes. But there is a little part of my mind that says, "But what if the fortuneteller is right?" And I want to thumb my nose at Montaigne and tell him, "Just you wait! You'll be sorry when these turn out to be the winning Powerball numbers!" I'm sure if Montaigne had had a Magic 8 Ball, he would have felt differently about prognostications. At least that's what my Ouija Board tells me, and we all know Ouija never lies. I'll be taking a break next weekend from Montaigne, but don't worry, in two week's time you can find out what Montaigne has to say "On the Cannibals"