It's 5-21-2011! I've been waiting years to celebrate this day! *Wooo party!*
What do we celebrate on this day? Well, I think it's unequivocally about the power of fiction.
Today we marvel at humanity's ability to write powerful words that motivate each other across unthinkable miles and centuries of distance; and also at humanity's ability to convince themselves of outrageously stupid things that appease their psychology.
This particular Celebrate Fiction day is, I think, more about the latter. I mean, this 'prediction' isn't exactly Nostradamus-level; it's just some crazy geezer wailing to himself on the radio … and yet, look how many people think it's credible! Even people I know who aren't even Christian (nevermind the specifically batshit sects of Christianity that typically go for Rapture stories) have, in my presence, made "Hmm, well, you know…" noises when confronted with questions about their belief in the/this* Rapture.
*because let's face it, there's a Rapture planned every couple years at this point. And why wouldn't there be? It's great publicity.
But if we expand this Celebration Fiction day to include the Bible itself — which isn't so out-of-line as it inspired not just Harold Camping, but literally countless other whackjobs — then we can truly appreciate the power of the combination of good writing and the twin human flaws of fear and desire.
A brilliant teacher I had once told me, "An honest man can't be tricked, because he doesn't want anything for free." Simplified (and I was like sixteen, so simplifying made sense), but very true — and applicable to the Rapture as to anything else. The whole idea of God Will Reset Everything is, at its base, just another desire to get something for free: You get your faith vindicated**, your enemies proven wrong, and your life started over***, and you don't have to lift a finger or take any blame. And even better, in sublimely passive-aggressive fashion, you get to gasp and bring the back of your hand to your forehead and say Oh no, oh my goodness, how just awful and aren't we all (say it with me now) such martyrs!
**which is, of course, antithetical to the whole point of faith — not vindication itself but wanting vindication. Seeking vindication for your faith is like seeking a machine to do your pushups for you. (Now simple little beliefs, yes; but the whole thing about the Mystery and the extranaturalness of God is that you can't get any vindication for it as a simple belief, so you're forced to have faith (which could be defined as a sort of meta-belief that needs no proof in order to exist) or nothing at all. …Or you can invent a Rapture-any-day-now and bank on that, I guess.)
***I don't think I have to explain that getting the benefits of suicide without taking the moral hit for it is an attractive proposition to the ego ipso facto, but hey, I explained it anyway. ;)
So let's address some of the questions this day is about celebrating — because if Rapture Theory has a light side and a dark side, the dark side is losing control and being an asshole/idiot, and the light side is looking honestly at what this all says about humans and their worlds; and I'm all about the questions, as you know.
- Will the world end? ABSOLUTELY. We just don't get to know when or how, and hence the Ending becomes no different than our own physical mortality: They hold exactly the same moral, spiritual and psychological lessons, and the important thing is that we learn those lessons before whatever's going to happen happens and we lose our chance.
- Will my Faith be vindicated? ABSOLUTELY. See question 1.
- Will my enemies pay the price for their crap? ABSOLUTELY. See question 1.
- Will I find out if my beliefs about God(s) and the Afterlife are true? ABSOLUTELY. See question 1.
- Why do all these answers disappoint me deeply? Because the hardest thing about faith — maybe about living, period — is the patience it asks from us. We are forced to admit that we didn't start this thing spinning and we don't get to stop it either. We get to know that it will stop — we will definitely stop living, each of us individually and all of us collectively — but we don't get a say in when. Could be 6pm today; could be thousands and thousands of years yet. The lesson we're being asked to learn here is not "find the Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything", it's find how to live correctly without that answer. The need for Faith, or the reality of Time if you like (I think they're the same, but I'll save it) forces us into an open-ended system; forces us to make decisions with much less data than our self-awareness makes us want. Learning to do this, and do it well, and find happiness in it, is arguably The Whole Point*^.
*^Or if it's not, then the structure of our very existence is antithetical to the point. Some people are willing to assume this; but I say it flies in the face of everything we know about how Nature, Physics, Cosmology, etc. is constructed. Everything we know of in existence has an astonishing balance about it; a messiness (chaos) bounded by brilliant rules without which none of it could exist. Lacking even allegorical evidence to the contrary (hell, every time we construct an allegory we show it), I prefer to assume that human life follows the same rules. Ergo, we were put here the way we were put here — mortal, and without answers to questions 1-5 — for a reason. Life is pushups. ;)
…Don't get me wrong, I think dying in an actual Apocalypse would be a pretty cool way to go, as they're measured. You get to say you played the game all the way to the end; you beat the last level and saw the final movie; and on top of that you don't have to think about all the cool stuff that you'll miss from being gone. But again, the point isn't how or when you go; it's what you managed to figure out first. And you have to figure out as much as you can first, because assuming that there's someone waiting to explain it all once it's over is silly. All the evidence points to the experience of living itself being the teacher, not the prelude to a 101 class that you get to attend after you've died.
And on that note, I'll cease with the blather so you all can go enjoy Rapture Day. Spend it marveling!
Marvel that people write and say shit so powerful that it can make zero sense and still gain thousands or millions of literal believers!
Marvel that people are so desperate to believe in certain answers that they'll pick human-produced fiction over all the facts the Universe places in front of their eyes!
Marvel that there may actually be God/s and that it/they may have resisted the urge to Smite us all silly for this long!
Marvel that the answer to all these conundra is probably just to relax and do the best you can, and marvel at how frothingly offensive people find that!
Then go celebrate some fiction. That'll be a good day, and if it's your last you'll have done it right! ;)