[Viewpoint] The uncertainty of one’s future

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[Viewpoint] The uncertainty of one’s future

This time of the year is a peak season for fortune-tellers. Young and old alike seek out clairvoyants in cafes, occult outlets and on streets to inquire about their fortunes of the New Year.

The less aggressive settle for services from the Internet and mobile handsets to divine their prospects for money, love and careers. Consulting a fortune-teller about anything from trivia to life’s important decisions has long been a popular practice here. But fortune-telling in recent years has become a decent profession with storefronts moving out of shabby alleys to mushroom in popular hangout places like Jongno and Apgujeong-dong.

The fortune-telling industry is said to be enjoying a boom because of the social uncertainty and unrest due to economic hardships. One survey showed that eight out of 10 adults consulted with fortune-telling services in 2009. Some 500,000 count fortune telling as a career and the market is estimated to be worth about 2 trillion won to 3 trillion won ($1.74 billion to $2.61 billion). One professor called today a renaissance age of fortune-telling consumption.

What makes people seek psychic consultation on their future? Two out of three would say for fun and entertainment. But what they really wanted to seek is some kind of assurance about the unfathomable future.

All human beings are future-bound. They live today, but are curious about what tomorrow beholds. When will I get married? Where will I be working in five years? How many kids will I have in 10 years? Where will I be at middle age? These are the questions put to fortune-tellers. Most 20-somethings fill their sleepless nights with different pictures of the future. The desire to learn about the future is partly spurred by sheer curiosity, but more by hoping to prepare against the uncertainties or misfortunes waiting in the future path.

If this is the case, there may be little harm in the boom in the business. But what’s worrisome is that many of the young forsake making important decisions on their own. They instead refer to a couple of box-checking questionnaires in magazines or the Internet to choose their match as well as trivia like deciding the best dieting method or vacation destination. Many prefer spending their weekends at fortune-telling or tarot card shops.

Life is about making choices and decisions. At every critical point of our lives, we are required to choose a path. What I should study at university? Should I get a job or go for a postgraduate degree? Should I continue with my current job? These are questions often asked. In order not to make the wrong choices, we have to weigh the options, seek out advice from books, the Internet or people around us. If that’s not enough, we consult with the supernatural forces, and fortune-telling is often one of them. Entertainment could be a motive, but consulting with a fortune-teller is more or less submitting one’s future to the mercy of a stranger. The feeling of desperation and frustration that leads people to seek a stranger to divine one’s future is understandable. But habitual search of aid to tell one’s future can impair self-confidence.

There are reasons one’s fate should not be at the mercy of some commercial soothsayer or Internet site. In life, the actions we take after making decisions are more important than making the correct choices in the first place. After choosing a match for life, one must endeavor to make a marriage a success, and upon settling on a job, one must do his or her best to be recognized. If the choices are self-made, the endeavors will be voluntary and enjoyable, but if they are forced, one would likely be less passionate.

After the storm comes a calm. We become mature by facing and tackling the waves of challenges and upheavals. Standing at life’s crossroads, we must consider our possibilities, desires and capabilities. Through such a thoughtful, self-seeking journey, one emerges from the other side of the tunnel with greater self-understanding and assurance. He or she loses a valuable opportunity for self-development by depending on easy advice from paid psychics.

Young people brimming with confidence and hope are taking their future too lightly by frequenting fortune-telling shops or Web sites. Because their future is uncertain, the young have so much room to grow. The path through the mysterious future should be challenging and exciting. The risks and anxiousness of taking one step into the darkness of the future are in fact what makes life interesting and exciting. The young generation should have more confidence in their instincts and convictions.

*The writer is a professor in the department of psychology at Korea University.
Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Sung Young-shin
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