Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Are You Ready?
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
It's never too soon to start talking about the end of the world. When I was in Grand Rapids about a month ago I saw three trucks--motor homes, really--painted all over on the outside with the matter-of-fact statement that Judgment Day is coming on May 21st. "The Bible Guarantees It." Just cruising through town, evidently as part of a nationwide tour (begun out here in southern California) to win souls before it's too late, and to warn the rest of us to put our heads between our legs and kiss our asses goodbye.
That's only three days from now, and I feel as if I don't have a thing to wear, figuratively speaking. Of course I know that if it's true I'm screwed for all eternity--consigned to the pit of flame, and all that. But I take comfort in the old punchline that I'll be so busy talking to my friends I won't have time to worry.
Anyway, with the aid of some creative numerology and an interpretation of passages of the Book of Revelation, always a source of ambiguous but intriguing authority for anything scary as it relates to the wackoid fringe of the Christian religion in its many many forms, some "students" of the Bible have come up with May 21, 2011 as the beginning of the end, as it were. On this day the Rapture will take place, in which the already righteous will be taken up into heaven. You've probably seen the bumper stickers saying "In case of Rapture this vehicle will be without a driver." Irresponsible bastards, these saved people, but then I guess it doesn't matter to them or God what happens to the rest of us out on the highway who have to contend with empty cars careening across lanes of traffic and hurtling off bridges. "Fuck 'em if they ain't saved" is the message. Because let me tell you, what awaits the rest of us makes a few traffic accidents look pretty tame by comparison. According to the best authorities, a worldwide earthquake is going to take place, followed by plagues and locusts and suchlike that'll make sliding down a banister and having it turn into a razor blade an attractive alternative. Five months of that, then on October 21, lights out. I think, but am not sure, this period is so the more recalcitrant of us can have our arms twisted, perhaps literally, into accepting the gift of Divine Grace.
As you can see, for me (and lots of other folks, Dante Alighieri and Hieronymous Bosch included) the ascending into heaven and bathing in the divine light of God the Father Almighty isn't nearly as intriguing as the contemplation of the horrors that await the wicked and ungodly. The little imps with pitchforks, the swimming in the fecal soup, the burning in the fire but not being consumed, the writhing in torment. Insects. Monsters. Demons. Nonstop Lawrence Welk reruns. Worse yet, nonstop Glenn Beck shows.
And as if that weren't scary enough, there are web sites in which equally earnest scholars declare, unequivocally, that May 21st will NOT be the Day of Judgment, based on exactly the same source material. Talk about hedging bets. You live by the same crackpot scriptures, but interpret them differently, thus giving Jesus another chance in case things don't go down as planned this Saturday. That, my friends, is the basic mentality that keeps both the churches AND the casinos full.
I would be remiss, though, if I didn't mention that even among those who think the world is coming to an end very soon--like this year--there's a split of opinion as to the exact date. You'll recall that my guy in Hollywood, the one who said he was the only begotten Son of God and that the Republicans were the minions of Satan (whose credibility in my eyes is quite a bit greater than that of the dude with the vans and billboards) predicted the day of Armageddon to be May 30, 2011, and the Judgment Day to be June 5, 2011, a very busy and hellacious six days later. This gets confusing, because Armageddon is by some definitions supposed to be when Christ comes to defeat the Antichrist and set up 1,000 years of something or other, during or after which Satan will have another chance, I think, along the lines of when a defeated foe in WWE wrestling gets up after being pinned fair and square and blindsides the good guy and kicks the referee's ass in the bargain.
But even on the same mean streets of Hollywood on Oscar night there were afoot a band of folks who were predicting yet a different day for all this to happen. In their calculus it was to be May 21st at the straight up End of the World. No five-month, or thousand year, period of something or other.
All this is enough to make anyone's head spin, and I don't want to pit one specific group of delusional folks against another. My years of working in mental hospitals have taught me not to mess too much with people who are responding to otherworldly stimuli. I'll leave that work to Satan, the Prince of Lies, the Beast. But really, who would you believe--some smarmy preacher in a sharp suit, or the guy in the picture here? I mean, look into those eyes! The dude is ready! In the words of the blubbering Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman, he's got nowhere else to go.
There's a larger question behind all this: Are You Ready? Not for the end of the world, or Judgment Day or the Second Coming. Are you ready for those things NOT to happen? It seems to me that expecting the end of things, for better or worse, has always been the easier alternative. Are you ready, instead, for things to keep being pretty much the way they are now? With prating demagogues and silly weather people and idiot talent show contestants on TV? With politicians in front of cameras asking forgiveness from the masses for things that don't concern them? With greasy food available dirt cheap on every corner? With Macbeth's "tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow," that "creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time"? If you can handle that, you're made of sterner stuff than the end-timers who wait for something magical to happen to make it all go away.