Thought #2: Looking forward to the future

“Everything that is not forbidden by laws of nature is achievable, given the right knowledge” – David Deutsch

Whenever I need a reason to smile, I just think about what it’ll be like to have an Eternal Blissful Life. This thought makes it hard for me to be truly sad about anything. It’s like when young children look forward to Christmas, and are full of life and excitement for days or even weeks in advance. The anticipation of something great on the horizon can overshadow everything else.

Sometimes I look at the stars in the night sky, wondering what it might be like to visit one of them. What would it feel like to walk upon another planet? Are there aliens out there somewhere, within reach? How far will humanity be able to go? 1 (click me) . Since I believe in an Eternal Blissful Life, I’m optimistic that there will come a time when I don’t need to wonder idly about these things anymore. I myself will find out the answer to all these questions and experience these new and incredible sensations firsthand. 2

a young men looking up to the stars

I can gaze up at a specific star in the night sky and think to myself: One day I will visit that star!

And I can hold this belief without self-deception.

It doesn’t matter how likely it is. What matters that it’s totally feasible according to everything I learned during my study of physics. I can envisage a plausible way to live long enough – and what’s more, humanity is headed rapidly in the right direction. 3. This is the power of conditional optimism! 4 I can justify my conditional optimism because I’m young, healthy, and live in Germany in 2018.

When I look at the stars and dream about the future, I also like to reflect on what had to happen for me to find myself in such an extremely fortunate position. It’s worth watching this video, just to remind yourself how far we’ve had to travel as a species in order to attain such high levels of comfort and prosperity.

Isn’t our story incredible? I strongly believe that we should be proud of ourselves – or at least grateful to the whims of fortune – about how everything has turned out. 5

Reflecting on our past makes me even more excited about what’s still to come. I love to indulge in the delicious feeling of being part of something larger than myself – the fascinating story of humanity. And I feel incredibly fortunate to have been born in circumstances that give me a solid chance of seeing how this story will unfold over the coming centuries. The same is probably true for you. Chances are you live in a time and place in which you can realistically hope – for the first time in human history – to live into the distant future. If you entered this world at any other time – any moment in the approximately 200,000 years that Homo sapiens has walked the earth – then you would have had no chance whatsoever. But you were born in the 21st century, which many claim will be one of the most significant and transformative centuries in human history. 6

It seems that many of us were born at the right time and in the right place.

I try to keep the above always in mind, and cultivate a sense of gratitude every time I indulge in daydreams about my Eternal Blissful Life. That way I manage to derive even more satisfaction from it.

Science has confirmed the benefits of thinking this way. A single person, over the course of their life, can be focused on different time perspectives: past, present, or future. The way their mind filters information depends on which time perspective has become dominant. Our adherence to one or another time perspective is a product of lifelong learning, and it can change with education and training. Unsurprisingly, a future time perspective is known to support a healthy lifestyle and can promote psychological wellbeing. So thinking positively about the future doesn’t merely feel good – it also increases your ability to live a better Current Life. 7

You don’t need a PhD in psychology to know that being grateful and optimistic is good for you – there’s a whole host of evidence to support this idea. Pessimism can soften the blow of bad news, but it usually isn’t worth it in the long run. 8 The act of visualizing future scenarios in detail, or otherwise actively engaging with them, yields fantastic psychological benefits. 9

Every day, especially when I’m feeling low, I try to keep my Eternal Blissful Life in mind and imagine what I might be able to do with it. Sometimes there’s a specific thing that I look forward to. 10Other times, I simply look forward more generally to my Eternal Blissful Life, and my spirits are lifted by the notion that everything will be OK in the end. Even if I have a particularly unexciting and mediocre day, I can at least comfort myself with the thought that I’m one day closer to heaven on earth.

It feels nice to have a dream – a vision – to look forward to. When Elon Musk was asked why he wants to build a city on Mars, he answered:

“I think it’s important to have a future that is inspiring and appealing. . . . there have to be reasons that you get up in the morning and you want to live. Why do you want to live? What’s the point? What inspires you? What do you love about the future? And if the future’s not including being out there among the stars and being a multi-planet species, it’s incredibly depressing if that’s not the future we’re going to have.” 11

You may disagree about whether going to Mars is desirable goal, but having an exciting future to look forward to is clearly very enriching.

scene from the movie Interstellar
Scene from the movie “Interstellar”
It is just fundamentally more exciting to live a life where you are looking forward to the future, where you “look up in the sky”. I personally don’t get the current zeitgeist of pessimism about the future (pessimism that is simply not justified, way beyond just pragmatism), and the “worry about our place in the dirt”.
Looking forward to something is not a contradiction to having fun in the present. And far from being a reason to be lazy in my Current Life, this vision I have about an Eternal Blissful Life also serves as a great motivation to take care of my body and my mind (not least to increase my life expectancy), and to contribute to the world to make sure it stays on track to a good future for everyone. My optimism in an Eternal Blissful Life is conditional, meaning I know it is possible, but it doesn’t just happen by itself. One has to work towards it. You will read a lot more about this later in my articles about the “three calls to action”.
For now, I leave you with this awe-inspiring video:

We are lucky to be born just in the right time and place. The future will be amazing, and we can already look forward to it now!