[Letters] Torrential rain and fortune telling

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[Letters] Torrential rain and fortune telling

The day before Chuseok was a day drenched by torrential rain, with 259 millimeters (10.1 inches) of rain in Seoul for half the day, turning the capital into Venice. The Korea Meteorological Association, with its advanced satellites and a national meteorological supercomputer, failed to predict the catastrophe.

It seems pretty unfair that we can’t predict the next day’s rain despite a slew of investments in modern technology. The history of human beings has been the process of conquering nature, but all that effort seems to have been for naught. Are humans destined to live at heaven’s disposal?

Oddly enough, a tarot fortune-telling house in front of my university came to mind. A bunch of 20-somethings usually wait in a long queue on the street in front of the fortune-telling tent. They showed outstanding patience to wait for two hours under the scorching summer sun.

People say that the tent is known to give consultative advice to young people on their careers and on love. Pondering the issue, I realized that astrology as well as saju, or fortune cafes, are still in popularity. The seemingly weird phenomenon of young people with scientific education going crazy over fortune telling is linked to the failure of being able to forecast the downpour. Have I gone too far?

The 20th century was a hundred years of optimism on science. Our rosy future took precedence over solving the riddles of universe, conquering cancer or resolving food shortages. We’re a decade into the 21st century now and although we know more than before, our rosy future is still out of reach.

We are not even able to forecast tomorrow’s weather and this is when pessimism takes over optimism. Faced with the harsh reality of our limited power and the impossibility of scientific forecast, we will only see anxiety set in.

Losing control of our surroundings and future are the two sources of anxiety. The desire to quench anxiety by improving our ability to control things has been the driving force of civilization. Looking back on the past, human beings have struggled to escape from anxiety.

Humans turned to God thousands of years ago, when they knew little about the rules of the universe. With the evolution of science, you are now regarded as uncivilized if you rely on gods or fortune. Despite scientific advancement in the 21st century, we cannot actually see a step ahead. Thus, we turn our heads up to supernatural powers to soothe the anxiety. Again, anxiety is proportional to the level of unpredictability.

Anxiety staggers the existence of the young. Opportunities are shrinking while competition is becoming fierce. Pessimism looms as the result. Young people weep and whine over not being able to see further than their nose and not being able to set plans accordingly.

Even the supercomputer cannot yield an accurate weather forecast. How then can youngsters foresee their future merely based on reasonable thoughts? There is no answer; no guru to give them advice.

There is only the sense of not being able to control your surroundings and letting anxiety linger. Thus, they’d rather seek out a concrete answer, whether it’s grounded in the supernatural or a divine power. That seems to be more reasonable. This fact makes young people become enthusiastic about fortune telling.

The lines in front of the fortune-telling house can be dismissed only when individuals stand on the firm belief that it is possible to predict society based on reason. Unfortunately, the world is not the way it is. That explains mysterious rows in the 21st century and the inexplicable patience of young people in front of a fortune teller.

Ha Ji-hyeon,

a psychology professor at Konkuk University
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