Yes, I know, fourth post in a row about the end of the world. I can’t help but find the subject of a failed Rapture fascinating. The following story came out of the idea of a calling that worked, but not quite in the way that anyone expected.
Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge.
It’s a beautiful spring day in England. The kind of day fir which, if you are religiously inclined, you would want to offer thanks to whatever deity you have chosen to worship. The predictions of a deluded old man have been blown away in the fresh wind, insubstantial and dead as dust, vanishing like broken promises into a clean blue sky.
Let’s not waste our pity on Harold Camping. He is at best a fool, at worst a charlatan and thief. He spent a hundred million dollars on an exercise in self-promotion. Hardly the most Christian use of such a large sum.
Worse, his followers are waking up this morning to realise that they have blown life savings and mortgages to pass his message along.
We all need a sage, a mentor, a muse to help guide us down the road. Sadly, we could also use some advice on choosing that wise man or woman, and it’s all too easy to listen to the wrong person. I choose to be guided by the precepts of Master Lao, but I understand that he too can be contradictory. For example, I offer the quote above, but he has also said:
The sage does not hoard. The more he helps others, the more he benefits himself, The more he gives to others, the more he gets himself. The Way of Heaven does one good but never does one harm. The Way of the sage is to act but not to compete.
…which, you could argue, is perhaps what Camping thought he was doing. Nevertheless, two opposing koans on the same subject, allowing me to put my own perspective onto a text. Which is exactly what Camping did.
Any reading of a text is subject to the reader’s interpretations and bias. As a writer, I understand that clearly. As does Master Lao, who says:
The words of truth are always paradoxical.
…which is just so incredibly helpful.
It’s very likely that Camping will regroup, rejig his numbers and come up with a new date for the heavens to fall. This is the fifth time he’s done this, and as long as his followers give him money, he will continue to do so. This saddens me, but it’s their choice, and there is nothing I can do to change their minds. I simply hope that at least some of them will wake up in every sense of the phrase today, and take joy and comfort in the precious gift that is the first day of the rest of their lives.
It’s a big old world out there, and everyone has their own ideas about how it’s going to end. It would be silly of me to suggest that the Christians have the whole Empty Earth thing wrapped up. And anyway, the concept of The Rapture bothers me. I think the whole idea of a chosen few being whisked away to safety leaving all the non-believers behind is incredibly selfish. There’s an element of that in all religions, of course. Our way is the right way, and the rest of you can (quite literally) go to hell. It also gives a whole new spin on the idea of Christian family values.
Every culture has a view on the apocalypse. The Abrahamic tradition (your Jews, Christians and Islamics) tend to view it as the end of all things. God ringing down the curtain as punishment, or rebooting creation as it’s started going a bit funny and his spreadsheet package has frozen. Buddhist and Hindu philosophy tends to think cyclically. As one age ends, another begins. It’s almost a seasonal thing, the endless cycle of death and rebirth. I can sympathise with this. Every time I think I’ve wrought the End Times on the weeds in my garden, back they come, regular as the new Golden Age.
Most religions seem to agree that we are living, if not in the End Times, then at the corrupted end of a cycle. Hindus call it Kali Yuga. The thinking goes that as we and our world go through time, we devolve from divine beings that know nothing of sin, into the sort of base creatures that can happily watch the X-Factor. According to Buddha, our life spans are also attached to this cycle. In the past, people lived for 80,000 years and were endowed with beauty, grace and strength. Over time, as we took on more worldly habits (organised religion, frozen stuffed crust pizza, Sky Sports) our life span and the gifts that go with it started to decline. Eventually, as the cycle comes to an end, we will live for ten years, become sexually active at five, and hunt each other for sport. Once only a few of us are left to repent that we ever thought Eastenders was any good, we will somehow regain virtue and become again divine. See, much more sensible than this Rapture nonsense.
I’m intrigued by the idea that most religions think that we are living in a time that is significantly more corrupt and evil than any that has gone before. I’ve heard that argument before. From my nans, mostly. Things were so much better when they were kids. There was Hovis for everyone, and there was none of this war stuff, you know apart from the war.
This hearkening back to a mythical Golden Age, and dire warnings for our future if we don’t behave, has been going on for longer than you think. Sumerian cave writings have been found that gloomily document a society grown weak, venal and corrupt – a society that, the grumpy writer predicts, will soon collapse into rubble. These writings, surely the first example of a Daliy Mail editorial, have been conservatively dated to around 2800BC. Which goes to show. If we really are living in Kali Yuga, we have been doing so for a veeeeery long time.