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Humans can’t predict the future perfectly. Even the position of the planets can’t be predicted into the distant future. However, we can make fairly good predictions for our human needs, and these work out well if we keep our attention on guard for changes that will spoil our predictions. To predict well requires that we have a clear perception of the present moment, and a good idea of the inertia that will keep ongoing events moving along in a predictable way.

Many things will affect our perceptions of our present moment, and the biggest ones are our hopes and fears for the future. Our hopes lead us to make decisions based on what we think we can bring into being because of our efforts, but that requires future efforts on our part based on what we think we can do. The reality for most people is that they make sustained efforts to get positive things they want only when they fear losing what they already have. The human tendency to buy things on credit is proof of that assertion, as their credit depends on their working in the future. Why keep working if you are secure in what you already have?

We can get a deeper understanding when we use our human ability to see and understand two things back and forth near simultaneously. When we do this we can form a mental image that exposes the overlaps and contradictions between similar things. This ability is built into our binocular visual system, so we can see distance more clearly than we would with one eye. We can do a similar operation when we perceive our current reality and our past reality back and forth, and try to understand them, there overlaps and borders, and overlay that conception onto a future one we can predict what is going to happen. We do this constantly and it is obviously so when walking through a crowd on a street. This same thing can happen when we consider future abstract actions.

When Epictetus the stoic entered a swimming pool he did so with the intention of enjoying himself, and he mentally prepared himself to have water splashed in his face, and for kids to make fun of his pot belly. When he looked into the future with those things in mind he was prepared to take those insults and similar ones too with a good humor. By preparing himself that way when likely events happened he could be kind to people, and the result would be that they would be kind to him. By looking into his future he generated a probable win-win situation.

Life is easier when you perceive your present and past accurately and base your future actions on probable outcomes.

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