Wisdom of Solomon 5:8-14:
'All those things have vanished like a shadow,
and like a rumour that passes by;
like a ship that sails through the billowy water,
and when it has passed no trace can be found,
no track of its keel in the waves;
or as, when a bird flies through the air,
no evidence of its passage is found;
the light air, lashed by the beat of its pinions
and pierced by the force of its rushing flight,
is traversed by the movement of its wings,
and afterwards no sign of its coming is found there;
or as, when an arrow is shot at a target,
the air, thus divided, comes together at once,
so that no one knows its pathway.
So we also, as soon as we were born, ceased to be,
and we had no sign of virtue to show,
but were consumed in our wickedness.’
Because the hope of the ungodly is like thistledown carried by the wind,
and like a light frost driven away by a storm;
it is dispersed like smoke before the wind,
and it passes like the remembrance of a guest who stays but a day.
I am writing this one day away from Harold Camping's prediction that the Rapture will be occurring at 6 p.m. Saturday "Wherever you are." (Now, that makes no sense. That puts an unfair advantage on people who live near where a time zone crosses. Not to mention I have already figured out how to thwart this. Keep the state legislature in sesson on Saturday, and simply vote to opt into another time zone. An hour ought to be plenty to cover most of us miserable sinners.
I confess, I have had a bit of fun Facebooking on this topic. I have been a practical joker all my life, and this just has too much potential. My Facebook friends and I discussed the possibility of throwing empty dog/cat collars and leashes around to REALLY mess with people's minds. I've said for many years, "If the Rapture ever comes, I am pretty sure my dogs will be gone, and I'm stuck here."
But, all kidding aside, I was in on a very real and useful conversation amidst all the joking around. It was, "If you really, truly did know the end of the world as you knew it, was coming, what would you do before the end comes?"
I must tell you, I gave a VERY boring answer.
I said, "Aw, ya know, I hate to say it, but I'd just live my life pretty much like usual. I wouldn't try to patch anything up, I wouldn't run and apologize to anyone. Those things just are what they are, and if people are going to kiss and make up with me just because the end of the world's coming, or if I am doing it only because the end of the world's coming, it ain't worth it. Maybe the only thing I'd do differently is go hang out at church towards zero hour...I wouldn't be doing it to cover my butt, but I think just to be there for people who are afraid. I imagine some people would just be really, really scared, and I think I would feel better about it, being there for others."
But this reading from the Daily Office on Thursday, and all the hullabaloo about Camping's prediction for Saturday speaks to what is a very real fear for many people...fear of "no evidence that we were ever here." Ultimately, I think we fear "non-existence"--the ultimate form of rejection and isolation. We fear that all we are ends when we end as human beings. The older we get, we become more and more aware of how, as much as we say "never forget," we do forget. Take, for instance, the Holocaust deniers. It was a lot harder for them to make their claims when many of the survivors, the people who imprisoned them, and the people who liberated them were still living; but as those three groups of people started dying off, it gave the "deniers" a toe hold--because there were fewer "first persons" to refute them.
We do forget. Go back to my post yesterday where I mentioned a cold hard fact of physics--the universe moves to "more randomness." The fact is, the energy of distinct, vivid memories becomes more random over time.
But consider this--is it possible that this "randomness" is part of what makes up "the kingdom of God?" I often postulate what the stuff of souls actually is. Could it be that "soul stuff" desires to be as random, as stripped of "us" as possible, because that is what creates total unity with all of us? I think about how dying relatives of mine have expressed a desire to "be with those who have gone before and to 'see them in Heaven'," coupled with my intense curiosity about "how everything works and to know as much as I can about everything I encounter." Could it be that after we die, this "soul stuff of ours" recognizes everybody in this metaphor we call "Heaven?" Could it be just like that Jesuit notion that "all is revealed," because we become so "random" that we simply are part of "all?"
If we go back to our reading above, the thing I noticed is that both birds (something that, in my mind is a good thing) and arrows (something that, in my mind, is a bad thing) both equally cut through the air and leave no trace of their existence. That is comforting to me. It means that all the wounds in my life, that fall under "The big three"--shame, fear, and guilt--will have left no trace. Both the arrows I've shot, and the arrows that have landed in my backside or chest. They will have left no trace in the grand scheme of things.
Of course, that means I have to accept that the personal joys of my world, likewise, will leave no trace. But I'd consider that a fair trade for the ability to, after I die, be part of something that comprehends all and is a piece of "all."