Life Goes On

by maxmosher

You really have to wonder about someone who is disappointed that the world did not end on Saturday. Somebody like John Ramsey, a 25-year-old from New Jersey who, inspired by preacher Harold Camping’s incessant calls that the apocalypse was on its way, quit his job, re-arranged his life, gathered his extended family around him and waited for the rapture.

(He also donated a couple thousand dollars to Camping’s Family Radio network. If the end were indeed nigh, why did they need donations?)

As the Huffingtonpost reports, Ramsey’s family huddled in his apartment flipping news channels and checking for word of action movie-sized tsunamis on facebook. (Maybe they played some Farmville in the mean time). “They cried. They argued. But mostly, they waited. Nothing happened.” On Sunday, Ramsey said he now faces a “mixed bag”. His wife, who is nine months pregnant but was resigned to never give birth, now must prepare to go into labour, maybe this week.

“Life goes on,” Ramsey said. “I get to live. I get to be a dad.” You can almost hear the disappointed sigh.

I don’t want to be mean. There’s a lot of naive people out there, and by ‘naive’ I actually mean brain-dead-stupid-who-should-probably-not-be-allowed-to-drive. No culture, time period or religion has a monopoly on snake oil salesmen scamming the gullible masses.

But my question about the May 21st non-apocalypse is why did we all end up talking about it? Why did I make a joke on facebook, inviting friends to go see ‘Bridesmaids’ Saturday night if “we’re all still here”? Why was it a casual topic of conversation all dayat the cafe where I work, up there with the wonderful weather?

It’s unsettling that a fringe figure can preach thunderclaps and fireballs and not only gain a following but hog media attention. Could I just start raving tomorrow that a giant, purple hippopotamus was hurdling towards earth, set to destroy us all with his voluminous violet derriere, and get hash-tagged all over the twitter-verse? Camping even did this once already in 1994! But, spoiler alert, life went on, which was especially fortunate for the cast of ‘Friends’.

Isn’t it irresponsible to give publicity to someone ripping off the money of his very own followers? In defence of reporters, it’s not like there’s real news out there; no natural disasters; no historic uprisings in the Middle east; no sex scandals involving formerly-influential middle-aged politicians with too much testosterone.

Camping sheepishly stayed quiet at first, but he gave a press conference Sunday outside his home. “It has been a really tough weekend,” he said. (I thought my hangover from watching drag queens at Crews and Tangos was bad.) Some have noted that Camping’s employees appeared to have planned to go to work on Monday. There’s no implication that his radio company, which is worth about $120 million, will give any donations back.

Despite the Reformation, the Enlightenment and Revolutions both Industrial and Digital, we’re not that different from medieval peasants who were taken in by wandering, wailing doomsday ‘prophets’. The human race knows a million times more about math and science than we did then but many of us don’t know how to use it. Just as disturbing, we live in a time when we’re as saturated with media as they were in the Dark Ages with bubonic plague, but we lack the skills to analyze claims critically and rationally.

“It’s not [Camping’s] fault,” Ramsey said. “I read the Bible. The math added up. I don’t think anybody would do something like this and not mean it.

Scientists (remember them?) do think the world will end in a couple billion years when the Sun cools down, but unlike the child Woody Allen at the beginning of ‘Annie Hall’ (“He won’t do his homework!” “The universe’s expanding; what’s the point?”) I believe that our relationships with other people and human beings’ incredible capacity for love, friendship and empathy, makes life worth living. Rather than as some sort of consolation for not receiving the loving embrace of God after his ascent, Ramsey should see that the love for and from his newborn child is what will keep him going.