Long before it arrived, the Victoria Day weekend of 2011 was destined to be more than a head-nod to a long-passed monarch and an unofficial kick off to summer.
For weeks leading up to the long weekend, billboards both actual and virtual had been warning the world of its upcoming demise. Saturday, May 21 was predicted to be the rapture, the apocalypse, the end of the world.
And yet, here we are.
It could be a miracle that this column is being written, not from the depths of a bomb shelter while zombies roam freely on the ravaged surface of the planet, but from a brightly-lit room on a leather sofa. It’s hardly the post-apocalyptic environment that was expected. Even Harold Camping, the octogenarian who carefully calculated the date, has not, as he predicted, been lifted from Earth.
Although most are no doubt relieved that the weekend was less eventful than expected, many probably share a feeling that, while it’s good to be around, there are certain responsibilities – bills, another Monday (or in this case, Tuesday) of work, spring cleaning, laundry – a timely Rapture would have helped us avoid.
Despite the terrible success rate of previous predictions, I’ve often thought of what life would be like if it suddenly took a turn towards Armageddon. Survival would absolutely depend on a well-honed set of “apocalypse skills.” Mechanical ability, construction prowess, and survival instincts all are abilities which would be required in a world that will no doubt look like a cross between a Mad Max panorama and any of Will Smith’s July 4th doomsday blockbusters.
While there are many historical records of failed End Times predictions to serve as a cautionary tale to those all-too-eager for the world to end, many believers still threw caution to the wind prior to May 21. People quit jobs and sold belongings; families spent life savings. The end of the world is serious business.
These extreme cases serve not just as a cautionary tale for the next potential date of rapture, but as a cautionary tale for life. There are three lessons we can learn from being stood up by yet another apocalypse:
1. For some, this is a reminder that certain things, no matter how definite, are not safe from last minute changes. Whether it’s the End of Time, a potential job offer or a plan to go camping, it’s important to consider alternatives and be prepared. Life is full of surprises, so before a bridge is burned, consider the fate of those who gave it all up for a no-show apocalypse.
2. For others, this is a reminder that a familiar situation is not going to be different this time. Anyone who has a friend who always fails to show up on time, or a relative who never fails to show up when it’s most inconvenient, knows the disappointment of thinking that this time things will be different. With a 100% failure rate in past doomsday predictions, this time it wasn’t different. Keep that in mind next time Cousin Dorothy promises she’ll pay you back--this time for sure!
3. There is no better moment than the eve of Armageddon to inspire some deep reflection. If this really is the end, how were the beginning and middle? Even the most confident sceptic can’t help but reflect on the small chance that the world may indeed be ending. Beyond last minute meal choices and a final day of sleeping in, were the last few weeks, months, or years spent living life exactly as you wanted? If the answer is a resounding ‘no’, now may be time to make a change.
According to Mr. Camping’s revised doomsday prediction of October 21, 2011, there are now 145 days to live life to the fullest. If that doesn’t pan out, there’s always the impending Mayan doom of December 2012.
With this in mind I plan to keep enjoying the good life in Rossland while I brush up on gas siphoning and refine my shotgun aim – just in case.