Sunday, May 22, 2011

Welcome to the Rest of Your Life


If you're reading this, you obviously didn't get raptured. But the good news is that neither did anyone else. I read some articles about the aftermath for the true believers. I was most interested in the man who cashed out his retirement savings of $140,000 to buy billboard ads such as the kind pictured above. He said that he was baffled that nothing happened. He can't figure out why nothing happened. Um...because you got punk'd?!? I know the preacher Harold Camping claimed that there was no doubt that the rapture would occur on Saturday. His radio station guaranteed their devoted listeners that this would happen on Saturday, May 21st at 6 p.m. in EACH time zone!!! How ludicrous is that? He thought as soon as it turned 6 p.m. in each time zone, a major earthquake would strike, destroying cities with only the righteous getting raptured. When 6 p.m. came and went in places like Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and China...we in the western hemisphere did not hear any news reports about major earthquakes happening. By days end, no reports of people flying in the air. There were about 7 earthquakes ranging from 3.0 to 7.0 around the world, but this is normal. And Iceland's most active volcano has erupted again, sending ashes into the air, which may affect flights to and within Europe again. But none of these natural occurences caused a disappearance of 200 million people.

I'm not going to mock with derision those who really believed that they were going to be raptured. I can understand their disappointment. They really believed what they were told. But it is time for them to face the facts: they are gullible and need to learn how to protect themselves from charlatans and hucksters, which I believe Harold Camping most definitely is. There were reports that he had amassed millions of dollars in recent weeks from all the donations. So, if he really believed the rapture was happening, why hold on to the money? Hedging his bets, maybe? Which is ironic, because the true believers were supposed to believe with zero doubts. Their beliefs had to be absolute, otherwise God wouldn't rapture them. Those who had quit their jobs are the biggest fools of all. Should they get their old jobs back? Hell no. If I were a hiring manager and some employee quit because he or she believed that the rapture was upon us and they wanted to enjoy their last few days on earth, I would not hire them back no matter how good of an employee they were. Their credibility is shot.

I know about gullible people because I see how it works in my brother's involvement with the people in his life. He has no ability to defend himself against predators who somehow manage every payday to get part of his income by whatever conning flattery or get-rich quick scheme they can come up with. Whenever I bring it up with him, he gets very upset and defensive so I've given up on trying to help him. I've gotten criticism from some people for not doing anything about it, but what can you do? He doesn't listen to the advice of family members (none of us wanting a penny from him) and gets defensive about his "friends" (who manage to con him out of money). I've always liked the expression "God helps those who help themselves." The phrase can be misinterpreted, though, and used to justify ignoring any suffering, but the sense I get out of it is that you really can't help people because they have to want to change. My brother has to become so sick of being taken advantaged of by his "friends" and the evangelical church he attends that he decides to break off contact with his leeches. That's unlikely to happen, though, because he gets lonely too easily and depends on other people entirely too much. I'm the opposite. I'd rather be alone than be around someone who is draining my energy or using me. I don't get lonely very easy (its what I call my "monk mode" because as long as I have a book to read, I'm learning something and you can never learn too much).

So, because of what I've witnessed in my brother's life for more than 20 years now (since our graduation from high school), I really have a low opinion of charlatans and hucksters who prey on the naive, the gullible, and those with a mental disability (and an inability to recognize the kind of people one should not trust at all). I really hope people will sue Harold Camping for his deceit. I'd also love to banish Camping, along with Qur'an burner Terry Jones, and obscene military funeral protester Fred Phelps to Pakistan to preach their ugly brands of Christianity to the hardcore Islamic radicals. I bet they wouldn't survive 48 hours in Pakistan. According to the news, Camping has not made any public appearances or addressed the non-rapture on his radio station. Is it out of shame? Embarrassment? Consulting lawyers to spin this? Working his fuzzy math equations to find out the correct date this time? No really. Its a 200% guarantee that it'll happen. Maybe we should update the morality tale that all children are familiar with: The Boy Who Cried Wolf. We can call it The Preacher Who Cried Rapture. He's zero for two (his 1994 date came and went with no rapturing Christians). I don't know if he feels awful about this. How would an authentic spiritual person react if he knew that his confidence about some event had caused many gullible people to abruptly change their lives because they wanted this for themselves? I wouldn't be surprised if he committed suicide over this.


Anyhow, I spent Saturday afternoon at the New Renaissance Bookstore, attending a lecture called "Clearing Your Clutter" (or maybe it should have been called "Rapturing Your Clutter"!). It was a three hour event by a space clearer. There were nine of us: 7 women and 2 men, all of them Baby Boomers except for me (why am I always the youngest person at these spiritual lectures?). The lady kind of resembled Sally Fields, which I liked. She had my attention the whole time. She had everyone introduce ourselves and say why we were there. I wasn't sure I was going to attend this lecture / workshop, but since my goal is to reduce my things by a significant amount before summer ends, I figured I needed help breaking my "pack-rattiness" that I inherited from my father, who inherited it from his mother. Interestingly, my father, myself, and my brother have the "packrat gene", but my mother and sister do not. I wish I had my sister's gene!

My brother has the worst case of it, because he's actually what would rightfully be called a hoarder. When I helped him move from one apartment to another one in 2008, I was shocked that all his assurances that he was packed and ready to go was a lie. He wasn't packed because he was overwhelmed. I could see the expression on his face that he was panicked and didn't know where to begin packing. When I helped him try to sort through stuff, he wouldn't let me throw out a lot of junk, such as a plastic tub full of old cellphones. He had bags of bicycle tire innertubes. He had a drawer full of video game joysticks. He had about two dozen backpacks, some with children's names on them (my brother is a custodian at a school and he'll save whatever he finds in the lost and found if no one claims them). He had bulky exercise equipment that I know that he doesn't use (such as "The Gazelle"!). It was hell trying to convince him to put most of that stuff in the dumpster.

My problem is paper. I'm an infomation junkie. And, as I learned at this session, I'm also an "archivist." I'd like to be cured of this. Its a curse. However, it was nice to hear other people's stories about being packrats. One lady said that she has been on a purging binge lately. Another lady went on a bit too long about her life story and I worried that she was going to be one of those. You know, the chatty kind who makes any seminar or workshop all about her. "I need attention!" I hate those types. I didn't pay money to hear her life story, I wanted to hear the expert talk, which she did. But there were two women who seemed to hog the limelight any chance they could get. The neuroticism in some middle aged women is annoying. The other guy and myself were quiet listeners. No surprise. I've been to enough of these things to realize that it attracts a mainly female, Baby Boomer crowd and these women love to gab as though they were Kathy Lee Gifford.

In the picture above (not mine, but swiped in a Google image search), that's what clutter can do to a room. Take a good look at it. How do you feel? Edgy, right? Clutter has an amazing effect to make energy become "stuck." The space clearer lady who was facilitating this gave a general rundown of our spirituality, by describing the physical, astral, etheric, and Ego bodies. She said that the clutter affects the "astral body", which can affect our lives in ways we don't even imagine. She's helped a lot of people de-clutter their lives and has seen a remarkable change in people who were able to let go of things they did not need, no longer wanted, or held them in the past. This space clearing in our physical living space will ultimately clear out our astral bodies.

Much of the session was centered on the spiritual principles of energy, chi, Feng Shui, Universal Law of Attraction, astrology and even past lives. No one batted an eye to any of her New Agey talk, but as I listened to her, I couldn't help but think of how an atheist packrat might react to her "woo-woo talk." If one does not believe in an astral body or etheric body or that by clearing the clutter, the mind will clear and the things you really want will start showing up in your life, they might reject everything she had to say. One example of her "New Age talk" is that she said, "My Saturn likes to organize my closet, but my Venus likes to organize by colour because I like things to look pretty." I've been too intimidated and even lazy to conquer my boxes of paperwork. As I've told friends before, I'm like a one-man bureaucracy. Time to streamline, baby.

She said that its best to have a big goal to work towards, so I decided on one after the session ended. My goal is that I will reduce my belongings to a manageable level and maintain a more efficient system because I don't want to burden my future wife with my "stuff." Sometimes I wonder if all this paper is what has been keeping me from attracting the woman of my dreams. So, this summer will be one of discovery, to see if the woo-woo is true. By reducing my clutter, will it really change my life in ways I can't even see right now? The other thing I hope to get out of this reduction is a better paying job (that includes travel!). So, this is my summer project.

It can be done. In the summer of 2008, I returned to Atlanta to meet my future brother-in-law as well as to take my belongings out of storage and get rid of as much as possible. I had a week to do it and I was so overwhelmed. Long days / nights, learning to accept the annoyance of mosquito bites and the sweltering heat as I went through box after box and sorted into three different piles. I managed to reduce it. Because I was crunched for time, I could not deliberate over much. I had to get rid of my cool looking bamboo-designed drinking glasses and dinner plates. My rattan and bamboo tables, bookshelves, and end tables were given away. I off-loaded more than 300 books, most of which I had not had a chance to read nor will I buy again. It was a chore. I even had boxes of newspapers, covering such events as the 1996 Olympic Games. Recycle bin. I had several boxes of printed articles from online websites. I had bank statements and cancelled checks dating back to 1990. All that had to be shredded. It was actually fun going through stuff and reducing what I had. It can be done and it should be done daily. The problem is, I would rather read a book a lot of the times. However, I realize that I can reduce my things in the evening when I listen to Coast to Coast AM for four hours a night before bedtime. If I work on one box a night, eventually, I will complete my task. I already have big clearing plans for the Memorial Day weekend. But I will have schedule some time to do fun things next weekend, too.


The photo above shows how much better organization looks. Despite the chaos at home (only my bedroom...the rest of the house is pretty zen), my cubicle is actually organized. I don't know why I am much more orderly and efficient at work than I am at home. Its always been this way. One thing I learned in this session is that clutter actually does make you lethargic and lazy. Sometimes I'll come home from work, eat, and sit on the futon reading a book, then wake up hours later with the light still on, my work clothes still on, my glasses on the floor. So, maybe there is something to this idea. Perhaps instead of laying down to read a book after dinner, I should just work on clutter control. It is amazing that I feel more energized when I'm cleaning up my room and throwing things out, putting information into files, setting up organizing systems. Its a process. Here's to a great summer clearing!

In honour of the Rapture that didn't happen, I am posting the classic Blondie video "Rapture." I loved this song as a kid. Blondie was my favourite band at the time because of the brilliance of their Autoamerican album. Deborah Harry's rap always made me laugh. Its pretty bad, but I didn't know what rap was at the time (I learned in 1985 with Doug E. Fresh, LL Cool J and Run DMC). Enjoy!

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