Are We Living Through History?

When reading through history books, it is easy to wonder about people who lived through historic events. Were they aware they were making history?

What did people living in the 1930s think about the Great Depression? Did they appreciate the magnitude of what was happening, or were they just trying to survive from day to day?

Did the young men fighting in the Civil War think that what they were doing would be written down and studied? Perhaps, instead, it was just what was happening in their lives at that time.

There were plenty of people who joined the Civil Rights marches in the 1960s. And there were others that opposed them. Were they speaking to future generations, or just trying to convince others to help them?

We are living through a global pandemic, political upheaval, racial unrest, and environmental catastrophe. Someday in the future, will students read about us in their textbooks? Will they learn about what happened here and now, and wonder about the people — us — that lived through it?

Are we living through history?

Related questions: What historical figure would you like to meet? What is the greatest problem facing humanity? Should we be concerned with legacy? What do we owe the future?

Democracy Or Tyranny?

Democracy or tyranny?

Democracy Or Tyranny?

What Expectations Do You Have Of Others?

The relationships we have — with your spouse, your friends, your boss, your neighbors, and so on — define our lives. Do you have any expectations of those people, or of those relationships?

As we navigate our lives, we build mental models of the world around us. The sun rises every day in the east, and sets in the west, for example. We can predict that, based on our previous experiences, combined with what we have learned.

Naturally, that includes the people around us. At first, your parents, and perhaps siblings. Then schoolmates, teachers, etc. What they say, how they act, teaches you about what people are like.

So what have you learned? What kinds of behaviors and actions are a baseline? Moreover, do those expectations change for someone you know well, versus someone you are meeting for the first time?

Imagine someone else exceeding your expectations. What would that mean? What are the basic things in another human being that you anticipate?

Similarly, how might someone fall below the behavior you have come to expect. Does that happen often?

Are there other factors that might influence those expectations, like age, religion, gender, political party, musical taste, hobbies, and so on?

Finally, how might that change between yourself and others? Do you expect more of yourself than someone else, or less? Do you think others would agree with your opinion in this regard?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? How do you know who to trust? How important is respect? What gives a person value?


What Will Be The New Normal?

As we experience the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all eager to be done with it. But when that happens — whenever that happens — what will normal life be like?

It can be difficult (some would say impossible) to predict the future. However, what are your guesses for what life will be like once the current restrictions are lifted?

There are many potential impacts, from the personal to the global. For example, here are some questions:

Once large gatherings are allowed again, will a significant number of people be hesitant to join in? That is, enough to see a decline in ticket sales to sporting events, rock concerts, and the like?

Will shaking hands or hugging be replaced with some sort of non-contact greeting?

The health care industry is being pushed to, and sometimes past, acceptable limits. Will they experience any lasting changes or effects?

What will this mean for preparedness for future epidemics or pandemics? What about other natural crises, like climate change? We have certainly seen that it is possible to make sweeping changes when the proper motivation exists.

Are our relationships, between family, friends, neighbors, and all the way up to countries, helped or harmed?

Will there be more political will for raising the minimum wage on “essential” workers? Teachers seem to have a newfound appreciation, but will that translate to better pay? Will policies like paid sick leave and universal child care see more traction? Will work from home become more common and accepted, resulting in less traffic on roads and shorter commute times?

Alternately, will things immediately (or eventually) go back to how they were before, with no real lasting changes to our society or way of life?

What will be the new normal?

Related questions: What is your five year prediction? Ten? COVID-19?

Do You Believe In Fate?

There are many examples of fate or predestination in our culture. It was meant to be. If it is meant to happen, it will happen.

The idea of fate has a powerful appeal. It relieves us of responsibility. And in a world where we are drowning in our responsibilities, that can be attractive.

Fate and Religion

Sometimes, the idea of fate is tied to religion. If God has a plan for all of us, then we can have hope for the future, and that things will turn out alright, even if they seem dark right now. We all need hope to get us through trying times.

However, doesn’t the idea of fate, or a grand plan, negate the very foundation of religion? It is important that we have free will, so that our choices, for better or worse, have some meaning.

Fate and Science

Nineteenth-century science promoted the concept of a deterministic universe. If we know the position of all the particles in the universe, and where they are going and how fast, we can predict where they will end up. The universe, in that way, is like a giant, complicated billiard table.

Quantum mechanics changed that. Uncertainty was discovered to be a fundamental part of the way the quantum world of tiny, fast-moving particles works.

So it would seem that science is moving away from the concept of the deterministic universe, which would seem to leave out fate. But we don’t live in the quantum world, and the scientific principles of a mechanistic universe apply perfectly well to objects our size and going at our speed.

Fate and Us

It is easy to see the appeal of fate when an important event is about to happen or a crucial decision needs to be made. If I have an interview for a job that I really want to get, it feels good to believe that the decision is already made and all the players are just going through the motions.

It can also bring comfort at a traumatic time. When someone dies unexpectedly, it feels good to think that it was not a senseless death, but rather that it was part of some larger plan of which we are not aware.

But is that realistic? It’s also important to our sense of self to believe that we have free will. Oftentimes, it seems that people simply believe in fate or in free will as they want, without any larger thought to consistency. But maybe that’s okay.

Do you believe in fate? If so, are there certain circumstances where fate is easier to accept? Or is the idea of fate simply useful as a crutch or as a way to hold on to hope?

Related questions: How much of our thoughts are our own? What beliefs do you have that might be wrong? Are science and religion compatible? Free will or predestination? Is it a cruel world?