Noelle McCarthy

Noelle McCarthy is a Herald columnist

Noelle McCarthy: Rapture or none, it could be a great day

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There is a scene in Martin Scorsese's film The Departed where Jack Nicholson's crime kingpin asks after another man's mother. "She's on the way out," he answers dolefully. "We all are," snarls Jack. "Act accordingly."

Exactly. We're on the way out. The world is going to end on May 21, according to a man called Harold Camping. Harold runs Family Radio in Oakland California. He has predicted the end of the world by doing maths with the Bible. Having crunched the numbers in the Book of Genesis, he's fairly certain tomorrow will be the day when it all kicks off.

There'll be a Rapture, and the righteous will go up, and the rest of us will be left below for assorted tribulations and an eventual apocalypse.

Harold has been wrong before - he also announced the end of days back in 1994, and well, here we all are, but there's certainly more empirical evidence to support his theory this time around.

The Queen is in Ireland, Arnie and Maria have broken up, and half my friends on Facebook prefer Paul Simon to Bob Dylan. We're living in endtimes all right.

I turned on the telly last night, and there was a man eating frogs. It is hard not to conclude that civilisation is winding down.

All the same though, I didn't think the end would come so soon. Here I've been, footling away for the last few years, op-shopping, painting my nails, drinking cups of tea, when all along the sands in the hourglass were running away like water.

Time held me green and dying, as the poet Dylan Thomas says. Time held us all, actually, while the politicians fought over sustainable living and reusable lightbulbs and we cooked our food and watched TV.

Not to worry. It's over soon. We're nearly done.

Of course, if D-Day is tomorrow, that doesn't give us much time. A day. Less if you're reading this in the lunchroom at noon.

I'm annoyed, I had plans for the weekend. It's an ill wind though, I had no idea how I was going to pay my tax.

A lot can happen in a day of course, and a day can be a long time, as anyone who's ever sat through one in a hospital bed, or in a prison cell may attest. And if there is a day left to us, just one day, then comes the immortal question - what will you do with yours?

You could start a war, or a family. Get drunk, get married, get a tattoo. If you got up early enough you could probably write a book, or you could sleep in all day and get up in the evening for fish and chips and a DVD.

You could have sex, buy shoes, play with your babies, take a walk in the leaves, or wash the car. You could just sit still and do nothing at all. What you should do though, is seek the greatest value of your actions, whatever you choose to do.

Those aren't my words, they're Stephen Hawking's. We should seek the greatest value of our actions, is what he said when he was interviewed last week. Unlike Harold Camping, Stephen Hawking does not believe in God.

In fact, he's doing a fairly solid job of proving conclusively that the universe came into existence without Him, using M-theory; his Theory of Everything is the most exciting thing to happen in physics since E=MC squared. This is the reason Stephen Hawking has been in The Simpsons and is the most famous physicist in the world.

Presumably Stephen isn't too worried about the Rapture this weekend. He thinks heaven "is a fairy story for people who are afraid of the dark".

He says there's no afterlife, that our brains power down like computers when we die. This is very depressing to me for many reasons.

I like the idea of heaven, especially if Truman Capote and Elizabeth Taylor are up there, but you can't argue with Hawking's exhortation, whether you believe the Rapture is coming or not.

Seek the ultimate value of your actions, says the atheist. In other words, make it count. Make it count. I'd like to see Hawking's advice married to Harold Camping's prediction for this weekend.

Make it count tomorrow. Do all the things that matter to you, do nothing else. Write letters, spill secrets, make declarations, hold your beloved in your arms.

If everyone, save for fundamentalist suicide bombers, does what the physicist enjoins, then tomorrow is shaping up to be a great day.

A day of revelations and grand gestures. A day that could change the world. And if Harold's got his numbers wrong again, and Sunday rolls around as usual, at least the papers will be good.

- NZ Herald

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