How I Spent Judgment Day: A Message of Hope for Harold Campling and His Flock
Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" If you are a depressed follower of Harold Camping, having wandered here bleary-eyed and disappointed, well ... I'm disappointed too! However, it's time to move on.
Here's a little parable about organized religion. I'll call it "The Parable of the Busy Zoo."
My daughter The Heir and I agreed to meet some cosplay folks at the Philadelphia Zoo on Saturday. The arrangements were all made over Facebook.
It rained all week long here in the Delaware Valley, but on Saturday morning there wasn't a cloud in the sky (or a zombie in the backyard). When I say "beautiful day," I feel this is scant praise for the weather. If you weren't standing directly in the bright sunshine, the temperatures were perfect. And everything was moist and verdant from all that rain.
Heir and I got a late start for our noon meet-up at the zoo. At 11:45 we were stuck in traffic on the Schuykill Expressway -- all of it what they call "zoo traffic," meaning that the backup was all created by folks trying to get off the highway at the zoo exit.
Eventually we did get off the highway and into the realms of the zoo. The whole area was packed with people. All the parking lots for the zoo were filled. A pedestrian quite kindly told us that our best bet was to park in Fairmount Park, which is across the Schuykill River from the zoo.
Heir and I were lucky to find a spot for my sweet little economy car, deep inside the park. We set out on a long trek toward the zoo, in our semi-cosplay outfits. This trek included practically having to scale a cliff to get up to the bridge that would take us back across the river to our destination.
It was while we were crossing the bridge that Heir informed me she didn't have a cell phone number for the people we were supposed to meet.
When we finally got to the gates of the zoo, about 60 minutes late, there was a huge, long line for tickets. The place was packed.
Now, I never have a bad time at the zoo, because the Philadelphia Zoo has a pair of Andean condors, and I just sit by their flight cage for two hours. But Heir likes the small mammals. I said to her, "You know what? If you try to see the pygmy marmosets in this crowd, the only thing you'll see is other people also trying to see the pygmy marmosets."
Heir readily agreed to turn back, especially since we didn't see any of the cosplayers.
As we made our way back across the bridge, we did run into some of the cosplay people. They (also late) were headed for the zoo. And they were lavishly attired. Spare and I made our apologies and continued on our way. We weren't in their league when it came to costumes, and I was still thinking about the crowd in the zoo and the cost of getting inside.
Heir was a little angry at me for more or less calling the shots and giving up so easily, especially when we quite serendipitously ran into the very people we would have been looking for. (Trust me, they would have been easy to find, by sight, no matter how crowded the zoo was!) But by that time I didn't care what she thought, because I was heeding the call of the bored gods.
We re-traversed the cliff, crossed busy Kelly Drive, and found ourselves along the banks of the river. It was not a Regatta day, but plenty of people were plying crew boats in the water, and there were joggers, bikers, walkers, and nature-lovers everywhere. Heir and I found a bench in the shade of a secluded garden that overlooked the river. We talked and talked as the pretty boats slid by and all sorts of people passed us in their own pursuits.
After awhile I remembered that it was Judgment Day. And by golly, there was something I'd never done that I always wanted to do, and by golly, I was right there ready to do it!
I'd never walked along Boathouse Row.
So Heir and I did it.
Boathouse Row is pretty famous. It's a serious of a dozen or so boat-storage houses, dating to the mid-1800s, that sit along the river and serve as host destinations for Regatta teams. You can see Boathouse Row from the freeway, and I'd often looked at it with longing as I inched by on the other side of the river.
Wow, those houses are gorgeous up close! It's like France or something. Each one has a personality, and the whole avenue where they sit is tree-lined and shady, with plenty of space for strolling. At the end of the row there's a little sandwich shop where Heir and I used our zoo money to get lunch and water.
As we ate, I said to Heir, "Hey, we're right by the Waterworks! I've always wanted to see that too!"
So we walked on. We explored the Waterworks, watched the river spill over a dam, and then ... right above us on the cliff ... Philadelphia's Museum of Art!
It was way too late to go into the museum, but we scaled the cliff and stood at a gazebo, staring out at the vast distance we had walked, the Schuykill River, the beginnings of a wedding at the Waterworks, the racing boats ... and off on the horizon, the hot air balloon marking the environs of the zoo. Behind us the modern skyscrapers of Philadelphia rose shining in the sun.
I said, "It doesn't get better than this." It felt so good to be out in the air, uncrowded and unfettered.
Then we walked back to the car, passing yet another wedding-in-progress. Happy the brides that the sun shines on!
The moral of this parable: Follow not your prescribed plans, but your heart instead. Don't be led by people. Take the hands of the gods and ramble the less-trodden path.
For those who live by the book and by the charismatic exhortations of fellow mortals are often led astray. But those who stand in the presence of the bored gods, with nothing between themselves and the Divine, will find peace in the apparent world -- and peace beyond the veil.
Busy god letting you down? Listen: there are other singers in other rooms. How sweet they sound.