Now that we're still here ...

The last time I looked out the window, the world was still there.Quite a nice one, actually. After a week of clouds and storms and chilly rain, the sun is out and the day is warm. I haven’t logged on anywhere to find how Harold Camping and his followers are rationalizing the failure of a rolling rapture across the time zones to occur, but I’m confident that their enterprise is in full swing.

“Aren’t all Christians millennialists?” a colleague asked me yesterday. Up to a point. The Parousia (Greek “presence” or “arrival”) is orthodox doctrine. Jesus is to return in glory, judge humanity, and wrap up history. Those of us in attendance at church repeat this regularly in the creeds.

But the text I was thinking of this morning as I woke and first looked out into the sunshine is a line from Auden’s aubade “Lay your sleeping head, my love”: “find the mortal world enough.”

This mortal world is what we have to work with. We can savor the beauty of a sweet spring day in Baltimore. We can flinch from the destructive power of earthquake and flood. We can struggle to repair the damage done to the world by human greed and carelessness. But this is what we have, and it is the proper focus of our attention.

You can speculate, if you like, on what is beyond it: oblivion, or a long sleep until the Last Day, or a succession of lives. Like Harold Camping and the other hard-shell millennialists through the ages, you can fall to your calculations in an effort to outwit the Lord. (Apart from the futility of the effort, there is something unsavory about the smugness of numbering oneself among a saved Elect while consigning family, friends, and all humanity to bloody destruction. Not, I think, quite Christian.)

But for me, the mortal world is enough, and the day is what you can make of it. My day is not Judgment Day but Preakness Day, and in a little while I will be going down to the plant, where we will make and ship many paragraphs.



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