Mystic Mainer Sees World's End, Maine Unaffected
To make a long story short: I was browsing a well-thumbed copy of the Book of Common Prayer (1928 ed.) when I discovered tucked into its pages a secret codex titled Schedule of Events. It took a while to decode this — I had to wait until exactly 6:00 p.m. and then expose the parchment to the vapors of dry vermouth — but I can now reveal that Anglican (and hence, World) History will end precisely at ... but maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.
Authorities (i.e. the Mystic Mainer and his animal familiar) have long suspected the existence of an esoteric Schedule beneath the seeming banality of everyday life. For one thing, we can never figure out when the killer rummage sale will occur at St. Thomas in Camden. One year we scored a whole bagful of upmarket neckwear for a couple of bucks. But we've been unable to repeat this triumph, because the date of the sale is revealed apparently only to a cabal of ladies on the parish e-mail list.
The larger consideration, though, is that notwithstanding the comforting rhythm of seasons, elections, quarterly earnings reports, distant wars and celebrity divorces, it's been obvious for some while that the world is going to Hell. This being so, there must be a Plan to it. I mean, no right-thinking Deus omnipotentus would just get up one morning, stifle a yawn, and pull the plug on everything. These fellows can't resist a frightful revelation, a peek under the divine mattress ruffle. And lo: to your own Mystic Mainer has such a revelation been granted.
At this point I know one question is pressing on your mind: Why the 1928 edition of the BCP? Surely the tepid 1979 version would do as well? Especially the large-print edition, into which one might slip any number of secret codices along with a recipe for raspberry scones without fear of discovery. To which MM replies: No chance, Jackson.
Let's cut to the quick here: the General Confession. Looking no further than his own living room, MM can say with authority that Episcopalians in this country are a notably sinful lot. The 1928 BCP (in language dating from 1662) obliges us to lay it right out:
"ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us."
Quite right. "No health in us" — MM has always liked that part. Now compare the impenitent mumble of 1979:
"Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone."
Now I ask you: has the quality of sin declined so steeply in the last few decades that we can just leave it at that? No way, says MM. We're as wicked as ever; we've only lost the habit of plain and forceful speech.
Other examples could be adduced. But MM knows time is fleeting and you are anxious by now to hear about the contents of the Schedule itself, especially that bit at the end. So herewith:
"4 Jan 2011. 11:00 a.m. (Greenwich). End of the world.
"On this date the Officiant shall read a special Collect for the End of Time (see Appendices). The Congregation shall stand in silence.
"Note: The Officiant should be a gay Bishop, if available (see Directory). Suggested Gospel reading: Mark 14:51-52.
"Coffee may be served afterward."
So there you have it. The world ends this Tuesday at seven in the morning, Maine time.
Well ... what then? MM hears you wondering (telepathy being one of his God-given talents). And he answers: Nothing much.
Maine is not greatly affected by dire events in the world at large. Record floods sweep through Tennessee, a mountain collapses in Bolivia, a former Israeli president is convicted of rape, rising sea levels threaten whole island nations, Google sells out net neutrality to score more eyeballs for its ads, every living athletic hero tests positive for banned substances, reptiles seize control of one house of Congress, a first-person shooter outgrosses the Hollywood box-office champ by 3-to-1 ... and what happens in Maine?
Oh, you know: a little snow, a little thaw, a bit of slapstick in Augusta. Mostly, life goes on. That's why we like it here. Come what may, the coffee will be hot, the plow guy punctual, the night sky breathtaking, and springtime tardy but inevitable.
So let the world end Tuesday, says MM. We'll read about it in the Bangor Daily, after Sports and Obituaries. We'll weigh the implications at the bean supper on Saturday. Then on Sunday, sinners that we are, we'll sleep right through church.
May it ever be so, in 2011 and beyond.