Tuesday, May 24, 2011

End times, rapture, now what?

In recent days, we've heard quite a bit about "rapture" and "end times" and "doomsday." A self-styled biblical prophet predicted the rapture would happen Saturday, but alas, May 21st came and went, and the world kept on spinning. People made jokes and a few people gave up their life savings. It is a sad story, really, and in the end, not very funny.

We live in anxious times, and perhaps that is why the story of the prophet-of-doom from Oakland had legs. I've not commented on this, mostly because I've been much wrapped up in other things closer to home and family than the fate of the planet.

Maybe it is that the rapture came, and we are all right, but we didn't notice, and now we have work to do on this planet that is ours to do.

And so I turn to poets.

Franz Wright won a Pulitzer Prize a few years ago for his book, Martha's Vineyard. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker. His next book, God's Silence, speaks of the longing to know what comes next, and in his own dark way, pokes fun at our own self-centeredness in needing to know what comes next. His poems speak of the grace in the dark spaces. He is the son of a friend of mine, and it was my privilege to be host him a few years ago for a reading of God's Silence. It was an extraordinary afternoon.

I give you two of Franz's poems that have something to do with all of this rapture business, and is better than any analysis I could give you:

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Franz Wright

The scheming and chattering
mind's abrupt sense
in the night of its being

surrounded by mind,
unendingly, starrily
dwarfed and encircled

by mind whose voice
is silence, utter
silence unequivocally

kind . . .
The first bird
talking to the last stars –

maybe it was you
who woke me today in the dark;
I know you're still around here somewhere.

I love you, therefore you are here.
For the first time in days I got dressed;
and I walked outside this morning,

and I saw a new heaven and a new earth.


But if they were condemned to suffer
this unending torment, sooner or later
wouldn't they become the holy?

God's Silence: Poems by Franz Wright, Alfred A. Knopf, 2006
Art by Kathrin Burleson

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