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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