This post is a part of the Humanist Community at Harvard’s 2012 Blogathon, a 12 hour blogging marathon by Chris Stedman and Chelsea Link to support HCH’s end-of-the-year fundraiser. Chelsea and Chris are both publishing one new post per hour, for twelve hours straight, and none of the posts have been written or drafted in advance. For more blogathon posts, click here. If you enjoyed this post or any of the others, please consider consider chipping in to support our work.
My boyfriend and I have both been working a lot of overtime lately (I have two jobs and he just has one absurdly demanding one), so a lot of our recent evenings have consisted mostly of throwing together some food and cuddling up on the futon to watch TV. We’ve been working our way through all of 30 Rock, and we just started Season 6 last night. In the season opener, “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching,” Kenneth (an NBC page – basically a very enthusiastic and very exploited intern) prepares for the rapture. The episode originally aired in January 2012, when Harold Camping was driving around the country warning people about the imminent end of the world, so this was topical then. Watching this episode just a few days away from another predicted armageddon, the end of the Mayan calendar, got me reflecting on the phenomenon of apocalyptic thinking.
When Kenneth comes into work the day before his predicted rapture, he starts saying his goodbyes to his coworkers and explaining his preacher’s warning. His boss gives him the day off to enjoy his last day on earth. But a couple of hours later, another employee finds Kenneth still in the office, continuing his menial page duties. Kenneth reads off his to-do list for the day, and it includes things like fixing broken office equipment and scraping off a banana sticker that has been stuck to the ceiling for several years. His coworkers are horrified, and start telling Kenneth about all the things he should be doing with the last day of his life. He lives in New York City but he’s never seen the ocean, for example, so why didn’t he immediately rush to the beach?
What would you do with your last day on earth? Fly to Bangkok? Go bungee jumping or scuba diving? Wear that dress you’ve been saving for when you lose five pounds? Write something? Build something?
Whatever you answered, I have one more question: Why aren’t you doing that right now?
Kenneth is the butt of his coworkers’ ridicule for choosing to spend his last day on earth doing the same things he’s done every day for years. But I think the joke’s on them. Kenneth literally lives every day like it’s his last. He has basically achieved enlightenment.
As you have probably guessed, I don’t really think the world is going to end on Friday. Humanism and nonreligious beliefs in general tend to be pretty thin on apocalyptic predictions. But I do believe that any day could be my last, your last, or everyone’s last. Even though I don’t think I’ll be able to see it coming, hearing other people try to predict the end of the world is a good reminder that my own demise could be just around the corner. Sure, that’s kind of morbid, but it’s also a pretty empowering wake-up call.
So take a few minutes this week to think about what you would do with your life if you knew it was ending – and then do it till the world ends.
Chelsea Link is the Campus Organizing Fellow at the Humanist Community at Harvard.