I’ve been thinking about this rapture thing a bit, saw a video clip of the old codger who keeps trying peddle these end-times scenarios. It’s easy to look at him and write him off as just another Bible-thumping snake oil salesman marketing his own personal brand of Jesus Juice, lining his pockets and laughing up his sleeve at the idiot faithful who, out of whatever desperate personal need, are anxious to abandon rational thought and tie their fortunes and futures to the huckster’s star.
Easy, but maybe wrong.
Settle down, not wrong in the sense of I actually think we’re going to fireball our way into the nether world come October. I don’t think Jesus is coming, and I haven’t got a clue what happens when we shuffle off this mortal coil, other than we go back into the great cosmic compost heap for recycling.
But I watched the old coot on the video, and I think he actually believes his own bullshit. And I’m thinking maybe I have an idea why.
The guy’s on the wrong side of the actuarial curve – he’s like a billion years old. Hell, the odds of him making it to October aren’t that great, rapture or no. At his age, he’s been having foreplay with death for years. Every creaking joint, every aching limb, the shit he can’t eat anymore, the stuff he can’t do anymore – all of it is a reminder that he’s been dying off a little at a time for years, and that, one day soon, death’s gonna shot his wad, and that’s gonna be all she wrote. For him, anyway. For death, it’s all one big gangbang. And we’re all on the dance card.
The thing is, though, whenever Mr. Rapture does punch his ticket, a world does end. His world. And maybe he’s got the end of that a little confused with the end of everything.
I’m a little more sensitive to that than some of ya’ll on account of I don’t need the ski lift to get up the bell curve anymore myself. I’m considerably more susceptible to that elegiac tone life begins to take on once more than half the sand has run out of the glass.
Sure, there’s an upside to aging. You do accumulate knowledge and experience, and, with a little work, maybe even turn some of that into wisdom. But, as you decline, it’s tempting to imagine the world declining along with you – as your own sight dims, to think that the colors and smells and sights and wonders of your youth aren’t just gone for you, but that they are somehow gone for everyone, and to cross that curmudgeonly threshold, and, from the other side of it, carry on about kids these days and how they don’t get it, forgetting that the aching immediacy of adolescence is every bit as real for them as it was for you, that the sense of promise and infinite possibility you just don’t have the energy for anymore burns with the same passion in their veins that it once did in yours, that your lessons don’t necessarily translate to their lives, and that each of us, old or young, believers or heathen, is, atom by atom, wrapping our own personal universe around us, a world that only we can fully know, that only we have fully experienced, the tastes and colors and fears and loves of which can never be fully shared, and that, when we die, will die with us. The larger world will carry on mostly without notice, and we can’t let the fear of that, the inchoate sense of loss in that, poison us or make us imagine that somehow we can pull the universe into the grave with us.
Narcissism is an evil of babies and old men, the young not yet able to grasp a reality outside themselves and the old so consumed with their own deaths that the lives of others are reduced to props littering the stage of their own mortality plays.
Harold Camping is going to die soon, and the idea that the universe will somehow go on without him may be a little too much for him to bear. I hope to go with a little more grace.
Now get off my lawn, you fuckin’ kids.