So the world didn’t end on Saturday. Despite 89-year-old pastor Harold Camping’s predictions that Jesus was coming back to reign down a fiery storm of destruction, we’re all still here. What exactly went wrong is anyone’s guess. Perhaps the Good Lord took a sick day—rapturing is a heck of a ball buster, after all.
Then again, this is the second time Camping has wrongly predicted the end of the world. He previously said that we’d all be checking into Hades back in September 1994. Oops.
All jokes aside, there are some very unhappy people in the wake of this hullabaloo—namely, those who donated all of their life savings and quit their jobs in order to better “spread the word.”
What strikes me is how many major news outlets covered the prediction, how many media personalities talked about it, and how many everyday yahoos like myself followed it. There’s something about the end of the world that just tickles our collective pickle. And don’t take my word for it—just head over to your nearest Blockbuster Video (or whatever the more “Hip and With It” equivalent is…Netflix?).
On the one hand, you have your disaster movies like The Day After Tomorrow or 2012. These are films about spectacle—what the end of the world will look and sound like. The characters are often flat and uninteresting, but you’ll have to forgive me when I say that that is really beside the point. These are movies to dazzle the eyes. As dazzlers, these kinds of films are more or less successful, but that doesn’t make them any less shallow or any more easily forgettable.
On the other hand, however, you have films such as Children of Men or The Road, which are considerably more personal and, in turn, considerably more affecting. These are films about personal suffering, about the struggles we as individuals might face should humanity meet its demise. More contemplative and complexly drawn, these films are less popular than their blockbuster counterparts; nevertheless, I’d argue that they are undeniably the better films.
Trouble is, if the world does end in a way similar to what’s been predicted in religion, fiction, and film, then the spectacle of our demise will go largely unnoticed in the wake of our inescapable suffering. Perhaps this is why we pay more attention to big budget, action packed movies and religious nutjobs. After all, they’re both easily dismissed and quickly forgotten. When it’s laughable, suffering can be reduced to mere silliness, and—come, now—who doesn’t like to be silly?
And so here we are with one more nutjob behind us. We can all laugh and roll our eyes and say that guy was sure stupid. More importantly, we can all get on with the rest of our lives.
Still, I sometimes find myself wondering, sometimes even worrying over how “Life” will play out. I suppose that’s just part of growing older.
In any event, here’s hoping the next nutjob will continue to be just that.
Rowing For Pleasure is a weekly opinions column written by Z S Roe. Please leave a comment or question—all opinions are welcome, and all contributions are greatly appreciated. If you like what you read here, please subscribe.