My Last Ten Days On Earth
May 11th, 2011
Family Radio has declared that the world will end on May 21st, 2011. At exactly 6:00 pm. That is in ten days. They say 200 million people will be saved; they will be raptured — will be taken up into God’s heavenly realm, to be tucked under the pillowy wing of his great dove for eternity. I am a good person. I believe in treating people and animals well. I do not throw garbage on the street, and I try not to pollute the water or air more than I do. Therefore I must be one of these 200 million people (the approximate number that Family Radio’s founder, Harold Camping, claims will be raptured), which after all, is a sizeable number.
Therefore, to document my final days on this Earth, I will make photographs; from these, I will whittle them down to a careful selection, to take with me when I go. These pictures will serve both as a memento of my time on Earth, this temporary home, and also as a road-map, of sorts, to guide me in my settling into my new home. I will select pictures of my ten final days on Earth to show others up in the heavenly realm, what life was like on this wonderful, blue-and-green orb, travelling at 18 miles per second, through the cosmos, around the Sun.
Also, I will look for signs.
May 21st, 2011, shortly after 6:00 pm.
My friend John, a smart-ass, when learning of my project, asked: “Well, how are you going to get the film processed after the last day, if you’re going to be raptured?” Good question I said. I suppose I’d been too caught up in the excitement and uncertainty to give that crucial detail sufficient consideration. I thought well, if I’m going to heaven, and if I’m a photographer, perhaps then surely-to-God there will be a darkroom. ?
When the dawning of May 22nd found me awake, in the same bed I’d fallen asleep in, you could say I felt a bit underwhelmed. So much for all that. All that hokum. That foolish old fart in — of all places — Oakland, California, had me believing that I’d be waking up in Heaven. Well, I suppose that means I can get my film developed, at least.
Going about my business for ten days, pretending they were the last ten days on Earth was a very interesting exercise in both looking and seeing. Putting such a filter on my seeing changed the complexion of everything — the way I perceived friends, family, and strangers. The absurdity and impressiveness of the environment and infrastructure we’ve built for ourselves was thrown into sharp relief. I thought of what our trace would be, and how a perception of us could be made based on our material artifacts. Signs, symbols, people, and objects took on a new poignancy. And, in retrospect, it seems peculiar that for a photographer so interested in the natural landscape, for the most part, that subject seems to have evaded my attention. Perhaps what is so beguiling about the concept of Rapture (indeed our species’ preoccupation with the whole concept of End Times) is the thought of this world left alone without us. Without us, wouldn’t the things that we’ve made and the objects and words that symbolize us be lonely?