It’s still not the end of the world

It’s still not the end of the world October 21, 2011

Today, once again, is the day that Harold Camping says the world will end. And this time he really, really means it.

Camping is not altogether wrong. For some of us, this will be true. The world will end today, Oct. 21, 2011, for tens of thousands of us — about 150,000 on average.

But then the same thing happened yesterday, and the day before, and the day before, and every day before that. And the same thing will happen tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and every day after that.

For most of us, though, Camping is wrong about the timing. For most of us, the world will not end today or tomorrow. But some day it will. Some day, for all of us, all of those Bible verses that Camping clings to so desperately, convinced that they speak of a “Rapture” of the faithful, all of those verses will come true. Two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know what day your Lord is coming.

The odds are that today, Oct. 21, 2011, I won’t be among those who are “taken.” (Although now, I guess, if by some stroke of fate that does happen, then this post will take on an eerie tone and will probably go viral as the strange tale of the blogger who predicted his own death.) But sooner or later, my world too will end. And I’m now one day closer to that day than I was yesterday.

That’s a rather depressing thought, I suppose, but it’s inescapably true. The sad thing for someone like Camping is that he’s managed to convince himself that he’ll escape it.

At bottom, that’s what Rapture belief is all about: the denial of death. That’s not a biblical notion. The Bible is filled with emphatic reminders of our inescapable mortality, urging us to be prepared and not surprised by the fact of it. People like Camping ironically take all of those passages meant to remind us of that fact and twist them into a fantasy of, as Irene Steele put it, “Jesus coming to get us before we die.”

Poor Harold Camping has spent more time than anyone pondering all those passages about watchfulness and “redeeming the time,” and yet he’s completely missed their message. When his world ends, he’ll be more surprised and less prepared than most.

Sheesh, this post has taken a ghastly turn. Not my intention. I didn’t mean for this to be a depressing memento mori so much as a reminder that, hey, check it out, the world didn’t end. We’re still here, so we still have a chance to live well and to live fully, to love well and to love fully. As my friend Dwight Ozard said, “suck the marrow from the bones of life.”

(Yes, I know that wasn’t original. It’s from Walden. But Thoreau didn’t say it while dying of bone cancer and thinking that made it funnier. So points for panache.)

“This thing is too good to waste,” Dwight also said. And he was right. It’s Oct. 21, 2011 and despite what Harold Camping said, for most of us it’s still not the end of the world. Let’s make the most of it.

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  • Okay so strictly speaking, this has virtually nothing to do with the thread, or the comment I’m replying to.

    That said, FearlessSon this part “I have never really seen death as a tragic thing.” of your comment reminded me of an amusing song that I think some folks here might appreciate <_<

    Your regularly scheduled thread may now continue.

  • Guest

    The cemetaries are filled with indispensible men.

  • ako

    I know what you mean.  There’s a sort of cultural picture of how one should live a truly fulfilling life, and it’s kind of generic and not perfectly suited to any particular person, and it can be turned into another source of unsatisfying obligation.

    I think it’s as much about the how and the why of what you do as it is about the actual actions?  Like…there’s a difference between turning on the TV to watch something you find enjoyable and engrossing and satisfying, and turning on the TV to kill time in a way that involves as little effort as possible.  And even then, you get people who make it sound like “Never watch a dumb TV show to kill time or you fail at life!” when it’s more like “It’s better to do the more fulfilling stuff as much as possible.”  And that’s true whether the stuff you find fulfilling is swimming with sharks or playing Halo.

    (“As much as possible” is actually where it gets much harder, because there are limits and tradeoffs and budgeting issues and timing problems and multiple desirable things can conflict and most people are going to have a moment along the lines of “I could quit my job and backpack around Europe, but I’d rather keep a stable job.”  And that can be trading dreams for dull adequacy, or giving up a romantic fantasy for the sort of comfort and security that makes you happy, or something completely different, and it really depends on the person and their circumstances.  And it’s one of those areas where it’s hard to come to a reasonable and accurate judgement about someone else’s life and easy to create a dramatic story about why their decision is wrong and your decision is right, so it’s hard to talk about in a useful way.)

  • And with few if any exceptions, their roles have not been filled.

    It is not, a the title of Fred’s post points out, the end of the world.  The lack of utter collapse following the replacement of a person does not indicate that their role has been filled, it indicates that their role, while it might have been important, was not necessary to the continuation of civilization.

    I recently watched the movie Moneyball in which the main character had to point out that they couldn’t get someone to fill the role of the player they had lost, so they had to find a way to do without that particular role.  Whether or not they managed that is a matter of some dispute (my father points out that the team didn’t win) but the entire movie made a convincing argument that trying to replace people is fairly useless even in a setting as narrowly defined and artificial as baseball, instead one should accept that lost people can’t be replaced and try to figure out the best thing one can do with the ones available.

    To try find someone who fills the role left by fearlessson or anyone else in the world, something much more complex than baseball, is futile.  The role will never be filled.  Other roles will adapt to take up the slack or fail to do so.  People are not nearly so interchangeable that someone can take over the vacated role (though I think I heard some talk of a tv series built around an attempt to do so.)

  • Jenora Feuer

    I’ve had a life that’s full, everyone’s been good to me,
    So fire up that fiddle boys, and give me one last drink!
    When the sun comes up, I will leave without a fight;
    The world is mine tonight!

    Love Enter the Haggis..

  • That said, FearlessSon this part “I have never really seen death as a tragic thing.” of your comment reminded me of an amusing song that I think some folks here might appreciate <_<

    McFrontalot.  Why am I not surprised? 

    Incidentally, that song reminds me of “Death Can’t Stop This” by Ultraklystron (who is a friend of mine from college.) 

  • Thanks for sharing that FearlessSon ish good.