Friday, December 20, 2013

Moral of the story: Don't be too sure of yourself

Doomsday minister Harold Camping could have used some Hunch Farming.

Sparks & Honey, Cultural Strategists and coiners of the phrase “hunch farming,” say since we are already crowd-sourcing complex problem resolution, fundraising and political support; so why not farm our “hunches” from the masses? 

Of course with names like Sparks & Honey, it is hard to take them seriously.  It’s like getting your technology updates from Abercrombie & Fitch, or Peaches & Herb.

Nevertheless, they assure us that science is confirming the power of collective consciousness and intuition.

For example, they cite the phenomenon of social chatter spiking globally in the period leading up to the 2011 tsunami and before September 11th, “like birds instinctively warning the forest of a predator.”

And a prophecy about the end of the world is as good a place as any for hunch farming.

If only Sparks & Honey had been around to help the Reverend Camping market his concept.

They suggest basing prognostications not on mathematics as he did, but on the intuitive powers of the collective consciousness.

But the Reverend Camping tried to create his own chatter.  And then he didn’t listen to it.  Because he knew he was right, after all.

You remember Harold Camping, the California preacher who calculated the end of the world would arrive on May 21, 2011.  Via his radio ministry and as many as 5,000 billboards across the country, Camping flapped around trying to create frenzy around his prediction of global demise. 

He got all of us in a lather about it.  Or at least some of us. 

Actually, nobody I know got excited, but play along.

According to his former partner at the Family Radio Network, Camping was bull-headed.  He had a mathematical formula for working all this out and he was sure of himself. 

In fact, he was so certain that on May 22, 2011, the morning after his soothsaying flopped, amid a flustered flurry of harrumphs and mad re-calculations, he admitted only to an error in his arithmetic and announced the new and improved date of doom to be October 21, 2011.

As I recall, he said something like, “Oops.  I see where I went off,” before releasing the October date.  A master of denial, even though he was so publicly and undeniably wrong, he still knew he was right.

Camping exhorted his followers to shed their jobs, homes and bank accounts in preparation for the rapture.  Gotta travel light on the way up, it seems.

And amazingly, many who had not already done so stripped down to a carry-on and one small personal item and began gazing upward in anticipation of the new date.

On the morning of October 22, when once more he woke up with the rest of us, Mayans and assorted other non-believers, well, you can imagine.  He was chagrined.

The world had not ended again!  Camping had no choice but to accept that in spite of his calculus, his superior intellect and his pipeline to God, he really was wrong. 

In a letter to his followers he confessed he had no evidence the rapture was coming anytime soon.  He said he wasn't trying to work out any future dates and skulked off with a slide rule in his hand and cloud over his head.

And now, Reverend Harold Camping has died this week, before the world did.

One good thing about dying is that he cannot be embarrassed anymore about all the glaring blunders he made while alive on the planet.

Unless there actually is an afterlife.  In that case he must be way past chagrin.  That’s like an eternally red face.  He will never live that down!

That’s why I gave up being right all the time.  It just does not pay.  There is no joy in it for one thing.  When all is said and done, what do you have – “I told you so”?

And if you are wrong – all that celebration from everyone who wanted you to be wrong!  It may not be the end of the world, but it is intolerable for a know-it-all like me.

So I have retired from the throne. 

I leave all the divination to the birds.