balancing between fear and awareness

When it comes to our future, it’s uncertain and unpredictable. We don’t know what is in store for us and it’s hard to estimate the ratio of good or bad, happiness or suffering, good luck or ill-luck that we would experience. 

The future is vast and has infinite possibilities, and it’s best to cultivate a balanced approach to it. We need to prepare for an uncertain and even dangerous future (you may count a Zombie apocalypse if you like!), but not worry about it at the same time.

So how do we do this and walk on the middle path? By simply living in the present moment. There may be a forecast for a thunderstorm tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go to the beach today and soak in the sea and sunshine. Why worry about tomorrow today? Instead, live today to the fullest and face the perils of tomorrow when they come. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to be negligent and act recklessly, but plan accordingly and develop a balanced approach between fear and awareness. Prepare for the challenges that may come your way in the future, but don’t let them overwhelm you and ruin your present. As the beast whisperer, Newt Scamander says, “My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice.”

It’s useful to do the Stoic exercise of negative visualization, premeditatio malorum, to contemplate and prepare ourselves for the evils that we may encounter in the future, but as we perform this exercise, we should also not discount the good things that may happen. And it’s entirely possible that the bad stuff that we are gearing for may never even take place. It’s like acquainting ourselves with the safety instructions when we board an airplane and having the safety manual tucked in front of our seats all along our journey. We can enjoy our flight when we are cruising up in the air, not worrying about any misfortune, but if something bad happens, at least we have the required knowledge and guidance about what we should do. We are aware of the risks, but if we get too afraid and let them overwhelm us, we lose the opportunities to take in the breathtaking views from outside. 

As Seneca said, “It is likely that some troubles will befall us; but it is not a present fact. How often has the unexpected happened! How often has the expected never come to pass! And even though it is ordained to be, what does it avail to run out to meet your suffering? You will suffer soon enough, when it arrives.”

The future is out of control, and we never know what may happen. It’s good to cultivate awareness but there’s no point in suffering in advance. Apart from having time to prepare and plan, a big portion of our present is wide open for us to enjoy and celebrate life, and take part in intense and exciting experiences. Let go of the worries of the future and live today fully. Carpe diem!