Nostradamus is considered one of the greatest fortune tellers in history. Whether that makes him an exceptionally gifted psychic with the ability to see the future, or an exceptionally gifted con artist with the ability to sell gullible people a bunch of nonsense, is as much a question of what you believe about the world in general as it is a question about the man himself. Does one allow for the possibility, however unlikely, of supernatural abilities, however limited, or does one adhere to the steady creed of the empiricists, if it can’t be quantified, it isn’t real? Whatever dogma one chooses to embrace, the fact of the matter is, people will believe what they want to believe. Perhaps Nostradamus himself knew this, and perhaps he even counted upon it.
Most of Nostradamus famous predictions aren’t really predictions at all. He gives them in the form of quatrains (a fancy word for a particular type of poetry), so at the very least, Nostradamus is a poet. Poets, of course, are masters of words, or at least they are supposed to be. A good poet knows a lot of words, uncommon words that most people would never use or even know existed. More importantly, poets, and to an extent all writers and storytellers, understand the importance of how those words are used. Put a word in a different place within a sentence and the meaning changes subtly or profoundly. Something as common as punctuation can drastically alter our meaning. I dare say most of us had a particularly diligent grammar teacher who hectored us over the use of commas with such examples as “Let’s eat, grandma.” Vs. “Let’s eat grandma.” Anyone who writes for public consumption will also know that, despite an author’s best efforts, readers will interpret the words in their own particular subjective way, often wildly different than anything the author intended. I’m not judging mind you. You won’t find me lamenting how misunderstood I was, now or, hopefully, ever. I understand people will have their own interpretations, indeed, I count upon it. That’s part of the fun.
Such thoughts make me wonder if I don’t share something in common with the famous prophet. He didn’t write that Hitler would come to power in 1932 and eventually start the greatest war ever fought in the history of humanity. He did write some very vague poetry that people have interpreted as foretelling Hitler’s rise to power. For details, see pretty much any Nostradamus website on the internet, but do be careful what you click on while you’re there. Did Nostradamus see Hitler coming to power in a vision, or did he simply understand that he could write almost anything, then say he saw it in a vision, and know that, if his words were vague enough, later generations would declare him the greatest fortune teller in history. Is Nostradamus laughing at us from the hereafter, chuckling at a joke whose punchline he foresaw centuries earlier? He may not have made many concrete predictions, but I imagine he made at least that one.
You see, predicting the future isn’t all that difficult. We do it all the time without realizing it. I predict the sun will rise tomorrow, because it rose today, and has risen every day for as long as anyone can remember. Perhaps I’m wrong, and a giant meteor hurtling through the cosmos will obliterate the earth before that, in which case the question becomes a study of semantics, but if the prevailing pattern holds, I’m likely to be correct. Nature you see, follows patterns. We see them every day. We study and discover them through scientific experimentation. We quantify and describe them with mathematical formulas. We seek to divine their origins through philosophy and religion. We give them names like gravity, magnetism, entropy, equilibrium. We predict the weather, the stock market, the results of tomorrow’s NFL games, with varying degrees of success. We predict our own behavior as well. For the individual, we call it character, personality, or psychology. For the group, we call it sociology, economics, or simply human nature. Whatever we name them and however we describe them, the patterns are everywhere, if you know how to look. The patterns led us through the past, up to the present, and continually forge into the future. I wonder if Nostradamus had a sense of that, and relied upon human nature rather than otherworldly visions to fulfill his prophecies.
As for myself, I don’t claim to be a prophet, and I’m definitely no poet. I use rhyme, alliteration, and the other poetic devices rarely and sparingly in my own writing, because I’m far too precise to sacrifice even a little bit of meaning for the sake of a specific form. I believe that form should follow function in all things, and writing is no exception. I’m also writing mainly for people’s amusement, including my own, and fitting things into a form or finding words that rhyme is a lot of work I don’t particularly care to do. In that spirit, here are a few prophecies which are primarily humorous, are virtually guaranteed not to come true, and exemplify why real fortune tellers give as little specific information as possible, prophecies even Nostradamus would laugh and guffaw at.
- Donald Trump will be reelected in a landslide after the successful North Korean campaign, and go down in history as the greatest President of the 21st century.
- Within ten years, Amazon will attempt to purchase Wal-Mart, Target, or both. I offer no opinion on whether the bureaucrats will allow it. Some things simply have no rhyme, reason, or logic.
- Within ten years, Google will know more of the world’s secrets and have more amassed knowledge of people’s lives and activity than any government or intelligence agency in the world (assuming they don’t already).
- Lebron James will one day run for President. He will be elected in a landslide and go down in history as the 2nd greatest President of the 21st century.
- The world will continue to get warmer, and glaciers will continue to melt, regardless of whether or how much we lower emissions. People will still argue over the reasons, regardless of how much science indicates one way or the other.
- The sea levels will rise, and people will still erect buildings right up to the shoreline and build in places that are technically below sea level (whatever that level happens to be).
- By 2050, the world’s population will be in decline, and world leaders will earnestly debate how to fix the depopulation problem just as earnestly as they now debate the overpopulation problem. They will not enjoy the same success.
- North Korea and South Korea will be unified by 2025.
- By the end of the century, Russia will become the world’s dominant power, and people from around the world will immigrate there as they once did to the United States.
- The colonization of Antarctica will begin by 2150. The colonization of the ocean floor will begin by 2200. The colonization of Mars will begin when warp drive is invented or when pigs fly, whichever comes first.
- By 2050, there will be more robots than people. The number one occupation for unskilled workers will be assisting fallen robots that trip over cords, rescuing robots that get stuck in corners or , and rebooting the robots when they lock up in their vain attempts to divide by zero.
Here’s a last one. This one comes not from me, but from my mother, who, despite being an otherwise rational and grounded person, holds some very peculiar affinities where literature is concerned. (Disclaimer: This opinion is not shared by the writer.)
Steven Drake will become a best-selling author and he will eclipse Stephen King as the author with the most fictional works adapted for television or movies.