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Friday, March 6, 2009

The Great Disappointment

No, not the story of the Solipsist's life.

The other day, the Solipsist came across a reference to "The Great Disappointment."  Intrigued, he tracked down some general information on this historic event.  Here, as part of his ongoing effort to enrich the lives of the Slopps (a suggested compromise to FOS's preferred "Slops"), YNSHC presents his findings.

"The Great Disappointment" occurred on October 22, 1844, one of many days on which the world did not end.  Who was disappointed?  The Millerites, a Baptist cult that subscribed to the teachings of William Miller.  Based on his readings of ancient Hebrew texts, Miller was convinced the world would end in 1844 and, after various calculations and recalculations, he and his followers settled upon the 22nd of October as the blessed day.

Miller's followers prepared to be raptured.  When, on or about October 23, 1844, they realized they had not been, their responses ranged from the predictable (resignation, disappointment, heavy drinking?) to the rationalizing ("Maybe we just got the date wrong?  These are ANCIENT texts after all.  Maybe someone just forgot to carry the '1'"?) to the. . . . shall we say, creative: They began acting like children in a literal reading of Jesus' admonition, "Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it" (Mark 10:15).  Despite their best efforts, though, they never managed to realize their hopes, and eventually most of them drifted back to their previous congregations.  "Hi, guys.  Yeah, still here.  What can I say?"

The Solipsist is intrigued, though, by the label that has stuck to this day: The Great Disappointment.  On one level, it's totally understandable: If you wake up one morning expecting to go to sleep on a fluffy cloud surrounded by sheep and angels and Jesus, then trundling back to your little house, which didn't even have cable TV or indoor plumbing, would surely be a bit of a bummer.  At the same time, though, it must be noted that THE WORLD DIDN'T END!  Isn't this, on some level, a good thing?  Are people's lives really so dreary that they look forward to the end, not only of their OWN lives, but of everyone else's too?  Isn't this the kind of mentality that leads to suicide bombing?  The Solipsist hopes that somebody was kind enough to reassure these people, all of whom were presumably good Christians, that they would get to enter the kingdom of heaven soon enough.  Nobody lives forever.

Not being in the business of consoling religious fanatics, though, the Solipsist would like to offer this sobering thought to the Greatly Disappointed:  Maybe they shouldn't be disappointed at all.  Maybe their calculations were spot on.  Maybe whatever was supposed to happen actually happened.

Maybe they've actually entered the kingdom of heaven.

Maybe this is as good as it gets.

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