Thursday, March 31, 2005


Although I have been discussing the divisions of history, I want to emphasize that history is continuous and complex. It's entirely possible, and appropriate, to begin accounts of particular things at some point in the middle of one of these divisions and end them in the middle of another. However, it's also difficult to hold large and complex things in mind all at once, or produce a list in order from memory. I have suggested a notebook, or the division of a notebook, in order to keep track of the exact names, dates, and order of events, because these details are so easily forgotten, and the divisions are useful for events that have happened at about the same time together. I personally tend to get caught up in the mechanics of the divisions and to have to remind myself to add content. This is most easily done by examining the peoples of the world, which will be the next subject of discussion.

I haven't established divisions of the future. For one thing, the boundary between the future and the past is moving. April 1, 2005 is in the future as I write this, but in two days it will be part of the past. For another, it is somewhere between difficult and impossible to predict the future in detail. There are some things that can be predicted with reasonable confidence; such as the next sunrise; others that are planned, but many plans are subject to interruption and abandonment, and some that depend on things beyond our knowledge or control; such as the date, epicenter, and magnitude of the next major earthquake. This happens on all time scales, and the further in advance we attempt to predict or forecast events, the more difficult it is. For those who believe in divine revelation and prophecy, more information is available than is humanly possible, but even there, there is much room for disagreement and interpretation, and there are seldom dates or exact details attached.

What limited forecasting is available would depend on knowledge of scientific laws. Many human events are difficult to forecase: For instance, it is certain that Pope John Paul II will die, and probably within the next 5 years there will be a new Pople, but when and who is a much more difficult forecast. Likewise, events involving many people, the population and condition of the earth, new books, art works, or inventions are difficult to predict. The relative importance of the various social institutions, and the fates of the various peoples of the earth are a little easier, in the short range. It is an interesting, and humbling, exercise to compare predictions and forecasts with history, but at the same time, a knowledge of history will give some insight into the future.

The only exercises I can suggest are to give attention to your plans for the future. You might find that you can anticipate and control more in some things, and less in others than you might have supposed.

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