On Futuregazing and Catastrophizing. Or, Is “Old Math Guy” Psychic?

Meet “Old Math Guy” as I call him, otherwise known as Dr. Albert A. Bartlett, Professor Emeritus, Department of Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder.  In this vid, Old Math Guy (OMG) explains the concept of exponential growth, in this case, the very serious issue of exponential population growth on a finite planet.  Old Math Guy believes that “humans” are generally incapable of grokking the exponential function but I would have to respectfully disagree with him there, only because women — adult female humans — have obviously been able to grok the concept of exponential growth for a long time and it’s why we generally (meaning, globally and across time) oppose recreational sexual intercourse (and rape) where a teaspoon of semen in that context has the potential to grow exponentially into an actual human child in just a couple of months.  And no one has to tell women that resources are finite or otherwise limited where we are made literally insane attempting to keep things alive in a global necrophilic (patriarchal) culture.  But I digress.

I have been thinking for some time that what people know as “psychic” ability, including the ability or perceived ability to futuregaze or to “see the future” is really just extreme rationality playing out in a culture that neither appreciates nor understands it.  This is a similar idea to the idea that advanced technology would appear to be “magic” to relatively unsophisticated people who did not understand it.  And it would, wouldn’t it?  As this vid demonstrates, Old Math Guy can easily see into the future using principles of mathematics and logic.  Here, he wanted to see what the population and population-related issues of the town of Boulder, Colorado would look like “in the future” so he figured out its rate of growth and how many years in the future he wanted to go and saw that Los Angeles, California had that same population now.  To see into Boulder’s future, he looks at LA now.  And it doesn’t look good for Boulder.  Is Old Math Guy psychic because he can see into the future this way?  Yes he is, if extreme rationality and “psychic” abilities are the same thing and I am thinking they probably are.

I have been interested in magic, psychic ability and the like since I was a child and I have been able to accurately see into the future many times (although sadly, I have yet to perform magic).  In 2012, for example, I had a “knowing” after my mother dropped me off at the airport after a lengthy and positive stay that I was never going to see her again, and although it seemed unlikely at the time, that has turned out to be true.  From practically the day we got together, I knew for certain that my boyfriend of 15 years would choose his mother over me if it ever came down to it and that it would come down to it in the end.  Well, it did, and he did, although he gaslit me about that constantly (and chose her in many small ways the entire 15 years.  Duh).  And I always knew, somehow, that I would likely end up homeless and it’s an outcome I have activated against since I was old enough to direct my own life — I knew, absolutely knew that if anything bad ever happened to me that I would be on my own.

But how and why did I think that?  I never knew anyone that was homeless or made homeless, as far as I know my parents never came close to losing a home (although now as an adult I know it’s not that hard to do but that only begs the question — why was homelessness in my consciousness as a child?)  I went so far as to put myself through law school and practice law — probably one of the most difficult and most woman-hating educations and professional fields in the world — because I knew I needed resources if I was going to avoid the end that I knew was coming for me, unless I could do something drastic to avoid it.  Well, a genetically 75% white trash female with no social, familial or financial support becoming a lawyer is certainly drastic but was it enough to avoid becoming homeless in the end?  Now that I’m in my 40s and seriously chronically ill, and that outcome is barreling down on me like a fully loaded freight train, there will be very little I can do to stop it (although granted, it hasn’t happened yet).  These are just a few examples of futuregazing out of many.

So how did I know any of this?  Am I psychic?  No, not unless “psychic” and extreme rationality are the same thing.  And I am thinking they probably are.  In the case of my now-ex boyfriend, it doesn’t take a psychic (or an extreme logician) to grok that a pasty mama’s boy is going to choose his mother over a female partner if it ever came to it, but how did I know it would come to it?  In our case, since his mother was as old as my grandmother, and his only sibling was completely unhelpful and fled the state as soon as she was old enough and never returned, that one was pretty much a given because he basically had no choice and I knew it.  The way it eventually played out was that I got sick and left the state to treat with medical cannabis and he decided not to follow.  For 15 years I had no conscious idea how this would come to be the end, just that it would, and it did.

The last time I saw my mom I had gone to visit her for what turned out to be an unusual month-long stay.  For the first time since I had left home at 18, I had both the time and money (and interest) to take an extended trip like that and it was a very pleasant visit.  I was taken aback when she went to hug me at the airport and I strongly sensed that that would be the last time I ever saw her.  Somehow I knew, just knew that we would never see (or hug) each other again.  It seemed unlikely at the time but now, 6 years later, I haven’t seen her again and it’s looking likely that I never will.  What ended up happening was that 6 months after our visit I lost my apartment in a hurricane and she was no help — I was left homeless (!!) and when I asked if I could come stay with her for awhile she disappeared for a long holiday, palmed me off on my then-mostly-ex-boyfriend (and his mother!) and in short order, I became too ill to communicate with her long-distance and that was that.  It’s been 6 years since I’ve seen my mother, I’m too sick to travel, and she is unlikely to ever come visit me either.  As it turns out, my “knowing” was probably right.

And as for my “knowing” that I was going to become chronically, permanently homeless — it doesn’t take a psychic to come up with that either.  I was born into a cold, unsupportive family, I was unable to connect with most people, probably due to autism which is apparently common in Crohn’s patients, and as an unskilled, unpartnered, unkept female, I had no resources and no way to get any.  And unresourced people easily and predictably become homeless.  I knew that as a child, I knew it as a young adult, I knew it as a professional, and I know it now.  Looking back, all of these “knowings” made perfect rational sense and particularly so if I also knew I was sick, or that I would become sick sooner rather than later.  And I had been having symptoms since college (well, since birth if you count being a colicky infant, which I was, and which is a sign of pediatric Crohn’s) I had at least one congenitally ill first-degree relative (my brother) and grew up downwind of two nuclear power plants.  Getting sick was the absolute worst thing that could’ve happened to me but looking back, it was rather inevitable (and probably congenital).

Anyway, I’ve said all of that to say this: I was recently told by another blogger (a non-practicing female therapist) that I was catastrophizing and that I needed to shut off my “monkey brain” which was lying to me about the direness of my situation and the likelihood of negative outcomes.  The way I read her comment, and as I noted in my response, was that women are not expected nor allowed to “think” about our situations at all.  That is what passes as “therapy” and therapeutic (even friendly!) intervention for chronically ill, unresourced women — you will have an easier time of it if you just stop thinking.  If that doesn’t work — if you can’t pretend to be literally brain damaged when you’re not — take some prescription psychotropic drugs that (frighteningly) will accomplish the same thing.*

But let me ask my readers this: would anyone who watched Old Math Guy futuregaze regarding what’s coming for his home town of Boulder, Colorado reasonably say that his “mind was lying to him” and that therefore, he should literally just stop thinking about it and that that would make everything better?  Old Math Guy lives and works in Boulder, he has a vested interest in what happens there, and he used reason and logic to see that what’s coming down the pike is not going to be good for Boulder — in fact, it’s going to be catastrophic.  Under these circumstances, would anyone reasonably suggest to him that he was “catastrophizing” where he examined the situation rationally, concluded something catastrophic was on the horizon and said so?  (Is it wrong or even possible to infantalize an infant?  Is it?  Same idea).

At base, OMG simply added time to what was already happening in Boulder and noted the natural, inevitable result.  Didn’t he?  Which is exactly what I have always done, as a matter of fact, when I gazed into my own future as an unsupported, unresourced female in capitalism and patriarchy and saw that what was coming for me was something I was not going to like.  And that had nothing to do with me or my brain, but had everything to do with the passage of time bringing about natural outcomes and there is nothing unnatural at all about an unsupported, unresourced female becoming homeless under this system.  It happens hundreds of thousands of times a day, it happens in every corner of the world (whenever and wherever women are oppressed, which is always and everywhere) it happens to women who are exactly like I am now: female, and unable to do much if anything to stop it.

My point is this: you don’t have to be “psychic” to accurately futuregaze when you can get the same outcome through reason and logic.  And because you can often get there using reason and logic, I don’t see any reason to assume there is anything more to it than that (and by extension, there is no reason to dismiss futuregazers (or psychics) out of hand).  And while OMG has likely enjoyed a long and lucrative career as essentially an academic “psychic” or futuregazer, rational/psychic women have to either “stop thinking” altogether (because therapy!) or use props like galactically-inspired headwraps and spherical minerals to have their futuregazing taken seriously enough to get paid, but not seriously enough for them to be literally burned alive.

crystalball

*I want to add that I do not blame or dislike this woman for essentially therapizing me in the comments of her blog.  For one thing, she can do whatever she wants on her own blog.  For another, I believe she was truly trying to help by sharing the conclusions of her capitalistic, patriarchal training as a therapist — that women’s psychic (emotional, mental and intellectual) pain originates in women’s own minds, and that in order to get relief we should just stop thinking about it or better yet, that we never think about anything at all.  It makes me so angry that these male-centric, male-serving (and male) belief systems are all we have as women to comfort ourselves and each other when we are sick and hurting but that does seem to be the case, even though all that’s good for is further alienating women from each other and from ourselves.  It also seems to be the case that, because all we have are male-centric, male-serving (and male) belief systems to comfort ourselves and each other when we are sick and hurting, thinking women, when they are sick and hurting, are unlikely to find comfort anywhere at all.

 

 

5 thoughts on “On Futuregazing and Catastrophizing. Or, Is “Old Math Guy” Psychic?

  1. As soon as you said “Old Math Guy”, I knew exactly what you were going to write about. Funny!
    Always have had what I call “bag lady syndrome” myself. Like you, cold (abusive) family, no way in hell did I have anyone else to rely on. Went into IT, male-dominated field also, to get the money I needed to support myself. I consider us to be the same, just I’ve been *lucky* thus far to only be a PTSD-addled woman, who has been able to work remotely to accommodate my illness. It’s purely chance, luck, chaos. And I feel that way about every woman in your situation. What chance did you have, really? And I could be where you are next week, for all I know. Loathe this culture, that forces women to live so close to the edge, and suffer from the strain of it everyday. It’s vicious and barbaric.
    Much love to you.

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  2. Hi OSS, thanks for reading and for your comment! Thank you for taking this post as it was intended. And thank you for the compliment. That means a lot coming from another writer especially where the post is experimental like this one was and I had no idea if it would work lol. I have spent a couple of afternoons reading your blog and have enjoyed your writing as well. I truly appreciate excellent writing and it’s strangely hard to find (strangely considering that “writing” is literally everywhere! It *is* social media but so little of it is actual writing).

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  3. Hi Jo, thanks for your comment! I’m glad this post worked for you and the message came through as intended. Now that I’m sick I do not feel as free to be as eccentric or experimental/experiential as I have been in the past. It’s fun though and gratifying when it works! What do you mean by “bag lady syndrome” do you not like throwing things away in case you end up needing them? Like a security thing? Do tell! I never knew that you were in the same situation I’m in, although a lot of women probably are. You’re right that living on the edge this way is so stressful (vicious and barbaric, yes). It’s some kind of miracle that women can do so much with so little and go so far with no support and every force in the universe plotting against us, including natural law that does not favor accumulation. But yes, what chance do we really have? The first time something big and awful happens it can truly be the end, we do not have room for second chances and we get no favors from anyone. And who gets through life with nothing big and awful happening? It’s inevitable really. Sure individual women can probably slip through here and there and I hope you are one that slips through. It’s possible although unlikely. I am still hoping that a couple/few of “us” can get together and have a go at it together but the more time passes, that seems less and less likely to materialize. It has been one of the great disappointments of my life even though I understand it completely (and so do you). Thanks for reading and commenting.

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