By the time this gets posted, it’ll be sometime around mid-afternoon on Saturday, May 21st, 2011. For those that haven’t been paying attention, today is (was) supposed to be the Christian day of Rapture; where Jesus returns to collect the souls of the faithful and carry them directly to heaven, leaving the “unsaved” behind to continue their empty existences until a massive disaster destroys the world once and for all. The source of this prediction is Christian broadcaster Harold Camping, who bases his claim on what he refers to as extensive biblical analysis and mathematical research. Camping had made similar claims before; previously scheduling the Rapture for September of 1994 and declaring he’d made a mathematical error in his calculations when events failed to abide to his schedule. Then, and now, his followers undertook drastic changes in their lives, preparing for the promised end of times by abandoning their jobs and homes, casting aside friends and non-believing family members, euthanizing pets, and arranging for their finances to exhaust themselves by the last day. Lives foreclosed by the living.
I’m not a very religious person – I was raised Roman Catholic in the American South, a place of spiritual contradictions so deep and divisive as to be considered almost schizophrenic in nature – but that’s not to say I’m not a spiritual person. I do believe in a higher creative power that most would call God. In my mind, however, God is not a managerial presence; a deity overseeing humanity with a celestial checklist of behavioral expectations that it, not met, results in some fiery condemnation to eternal suffering. Mine is more the clock-maker God; a being that set the universe in motion and bestowed the gift of life upon his creations in the purest act of love we will ever know. We owe Him nothing in return but our existence itself, done to the best of our ability, with an eye to embracing this gift with the same amount of love and respect in which it was bestowed.
Which is why I find all this talk of Rapture – and by extension, Armageddon – deeply troubling.
It seems to me that a lot of people longing for the end of the world have missed the point of their own existence. They’re not happy with the life they’ve been given, and this longing for release is not so much a rushing to glory, but a cowardly rejection of life itself. They are willing to cast aside the greatest of gifts simply because they’ve grown weary of the world they’ve created for themselves. And who can blame them? Look at the things we consider important, the things we’ve created: Money, materialism, power (both personal and political) are all ephemeral concepts used to define a happiness subject to external validation. We seek not internal happiness, but external approval. Life, for many, thus becomes a hellish chore; a never-ending chase for a non-spiritual fulfillment. Rather than fight for their literal lives to change things, those that embrace the end of the world surrender. They reject both the glory of life and the God that granted it.
One of the reasons I love film and literature is not because they give me a moment away from the realities of my own life, but because they give the opportunity to experience the realities of others; to embrace and internalize the whole of existence on a personal level. To celebrate the gift of not only my life, but the lives of others. I may not be religious in the traditional sense, but I attend the church of the mind religiously. My Bible contain the words and images of authors and auteurs unafraid to look on life and document not only it’s heavens, but also it’s hells. I see the face of God within the words, and know that he is pleased.
So you’ll excuse me if, on this “end of days,” I will not be sitting alone waiting for my life to be over. I will be outside, beneath a brilliant blue sky freckled with clouds, kneeling in a grassy yard a thousand shades of green, playing catch with the kid across the street. I’ll watch my dogs bask in the speckled sun beneath the beeches and pines, as the shadows flicker across their dreaming eyelids and twitching paws. Later on, I will lie on the couch as one cat kneads my chest into a pillow of comfort and warmth, while the other goes ninja on a catnip treat just out of reach beneath us. My wife an I will make hamburgers – with bacon and mushrooms – and as we eat we will watch a movie and talk, sharing yet another moment that deepens our love. I will embrace and love my life. This will be my rapture.