Monday, May 23, 2011

Old Lodge Skins, Sisyphus, Sir Isaac Newton, Harold Camping, and Me

The Sisyphean efforts of Harold Camping and others at predicting The Rapture always (so far at least) have the same result. They push their predictions ever higher and higher against the slope of reason only to have that rock roll back down and they start over the next day pushing that same prediction up that steep hill. Noted television preacher Pat Robertson pushed that rock years ago, as well as a motley crew of other doomsday cheerleaders: a William Miller, an American Baptist, thought 1844 was the year; Jehovah's Witnesses have had a kind of rolling bet going for many years; a Chuck Smith of the Foursquare Gospel Church thought it was in 1981; 1988 was the year according to Edgar Whisenant; would be Sisypheans in Korea were hoping 1992 was the year; Harold Camping predicted 1994 and May 21, 2011; according to an on-line encyclopedia, the great Sir Isaac Newton thought 2060 could be the year.

Robert Frost wrote a poem with a droll and dry wit that frames the issues in personal terms: desire and hate.

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire/Some say in ice./From what I've tasted of desire/I hold with those who favor fire./But if it had to perish twice,/I think I know enough of hate/To say that for destruction ice/Is also great/And would suffice.

And I suspect avoiding this personal perspective is what is at work with these End Times advocates.

Perhaps it is easier to contemplate the end of everything than the end of oneself. Now there's a paradox. I have a poet friend whose image of an individual's death is that of a piece of cloth being torn from the fabric of life. But the fabric is gradually mended so that the rent fabric of life is repaired. I like that image. The continuum of life continues. It is small and personal and real. We have our few years in this life to contribute what we can and then our time is done. The attempts by the end times zealots to include everyone in their extravaganzas is amusing and pathetic and filled with hubris.

There's a scene from one of my favorite movies, Little Big Man, that came to mind while I was contemplating this strange topic. In the midst of the extermination of his people, Old Lodge Skins is ready to die and climbs to the top of a hill and lies down to join his ancestors. A sprinkle of rain brings him out of his sleep. His young companion, Jack Crabb renamed Little Big Man by the Cheyenne, is at his side. With Old Lodge Skins, it's personal.

[Grandfather, who has laid himself down to die, wakes up]

Old Lodge Skins: Am I still in this world?

Jack Crabb: Yes, Grandfather.

Old Lodge Skins: [groans] I was afraid of that. Well, sometimes the magic works. Sometimes, it doesn't.

Little Big Man

Sometimes the magic works. Sometimes, it doesn't. So the next prediction that I know of is on my birthday in 2012, Dec. 21, the Mayan calendar thing. The apocalypse media machine will be churning like crazy soon. The Post Rapture Pet Care companies will shift gears to the Mayan Calendar End Times advertising campaign. I continue to believe the ancient Mayans were about to roll out their next calendar with the Spaniards showed up and personally delivered the apocalypse to the Mayans well ahead of schedule.

Earthquakes, volcanoes, droughts, famines, floods, tornadoes, and all the man made disasters we invent are part and parcel of our circumstances. Perhaps Harold Camping and all the rest of us would be better off living in the here and now fighting injustice, ending war, feeding the hungry, lifting up the poor, sharing the loaves and fishes, and playing with our kids.

Later, Bud C

UPDATE: Harold Camping said a couple of days later that May 21 was the "invisible Rapture" and that the world will end on Oct. 21, 2011. It's good to know that he remains undaunted and is still on the job! And although he's never been right, that doesn't appear to bother him one bit.


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