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11:01pm, Thursday night, September 5th, 2002

(Average: 13.3 mph / Time: 4.41.24 / Distance: 62.96 miles / Odometer: 273.2 miles)

Right, I need to recap. On Tuesday I hit some very hilly country. I had to walk up a few, as I’ve said, and the sun was baking down on me all day. Maybe that sapped my energy, but I kept running out of va-va-voom. And there never seemed to be enough downhills to balance the scales. With the notable exception of the one just before the Wexford border that had me going 36 miles an hour! That was such a great feeling. All the work of getting up the hill is washed from you. The wind defuses the sun. There’s a lot of mass on the bike for those speeds, you pick up momentum quickly. It wouldn’t be advised to try and stop too quickly. No, that wouldn’t do. You are always aware, but much more so at speed, that you are only connected to the earth at two narrow points. At a certain point down the hill you kind of step back and run a check-list to make sure you have everything under control. Once that’s out of the way you are free to simply take in as much as you can. Wringing every second of pleasure out of the sight of stone walls and fields and trees flying past you. Everything close to you feels like it’s moving at light speed. The further away you look the more subtle the sense of movement, but everywhere is moving. The whole country is whizzing by you and you’re just sitting still watching it. Gasping for breath.

It was the outreaches of the Blackstairs Mts. that did me in, and I was glad to get to New Ross reasonably early, about 1pm. It borders with Kilkenny down at the docks. So I got myself down there and stopped beside the Dunbrody famine ship, an incredible replica which is used as a floating museum, and stopped for some tea and biscuits. Some old drunk started to make a nuisance of himself but soon left me to enjoy my smoke and a cuppa. Relaxing in the sun, listening to the sounds of the dockside.

I got so relaxed that I went in for a pint of Guinness while I sent a few text messages out to update people. Bloody phone is always going off. Huffing your way up a hill while it goes off in the handlebar bag is the worst. You can’t spare a hand to dig it out and turn it off, so you resort to screaming at it, which doesn’t work but does knock the edge off the irritation.

What I should have done then, had I known, was carry on down the main road to Waterford and across to Tipperary. But I followed my planned route and crossed some more mountains to Mullinivat. They turned out to be rotten roads but had begun to turn downwards by the time I reached Mullinivat and got a puncture. And in the rear wheel too, which made it worse. That held me up for about an hour because I hadn’t brought a spare tube. While trying to fix the puncture I found that my new pump was letting more air out than in. When the puncture was fixed I had to pump it up at the garage, and hope it would last me, because there was nowhere there to buy a new one.

Thankfully it held and I made it as far as Carrick-on-Suir by 6pm. I was ready to call it a day there and then, but managed to carry on to Kilsheelan by 7pm. I had been trying to make it to Ballyporeen in Tipperary where some friends were expecting me, but I called again and cancelled because I was about two hours away from them still.

And that’s where I cheated. I committed the unspeakable (but luckily writeable) act of allowing Udo drive out and collect me. It’s the kind of thing that goes against my ethics of touring, but I also thought that I’d suffered enough for one day, and since I wasn’t being driven over any borders I decided that I’d take the feckin’ lift while it was going! The sad part is that from Clonmel on it was almost entirely downhill on excellent smooth roads. I looked out the car window and felt like I had missed a treat.

Anyway, it was nice to be somewhere familiar, and the feed Hilary gave me was huge! Big side of beef, tons of veg and potatoes, and lashings and lashings of gravy. I went through two pots of tea too. Not having enough of that on this road. I was up till the wee hours smoking with Udo. He’s a fine man to spend time with. I always hear really cool music I’ve never heard before when I’m with him, but he never knows the names of any of the tracks or artists. He’s only out to satisfy his ears. He really wants to do something a bit mad himself. I might rope him in for the birdman competition.

The something important that I realised at the roadside as I wrote my diary entry on Tuesday was that I hadn’t managed to get a photo of the Welcome to Waterford sign, and Ballyporeen is sell away from the border. Luckily for me Jim, Hillary’s dad, was there that night. Having worked his life on the buses he was able to tell me that on the other side of the Knockmealdown mts. was the town of Araglin, which stradles three borders: Waterford, Tipperary and Cork.

Udo leaves me to it

The next morning, Wednesday, Udo drove me to the top of the Knockmealdown mts. and left me to it. This gave me a great start to the day, rolling down to Araglin. Then I had to go  a mile up a steep-ass mountain into Waterford. I didn’t find a sign so I stuck the bike on the border (a bridge) and used that. There was a Tipperary one just inside that side of the border. I’d hate to think I was just missing them, but I did look. I can’k keep wasting time searching them out.

All of that had totally changed my route so I was kind of winging it for half a day. That gave those few hours a real sense of exploration. I stopped in Killworth at 11 for some noodles, ham and cheese, and a cup of tea with some shortcake biscuits. I could have been anywhere, but I couldn’t have felt freer. That must have given me a powerful edge because I made great time for the rest of the day. At a place called Glanworth you cross a single lane bridge while looking up at the side of a huge castle, with an enormous water wheel attached to it. I’ve seen them on mills and factories, but never a castle before. It is a very impressive sight, all the more so for it’s unexpectedness. One minute you are watching a farmer steer a battered tractor in his field and around the next corner you find yourself back in the middle ages. Strange that I’ve never heard of Glanworth before.

I made it to Mallow about 2pm and had to wait for the bicycle shop to open so that I could get a spare tube, let’s just hope the pump is up to it when the time comes. Got to Kanturk about 4pm. The quality of the roads had been on the rise from Mallow and there was some nice views but the best was yet to come. Incidentally, when I talk of the quality of a road I’m actually talking about the quality of the view. Rough, smooth, pot-holed or not doesn’t matter, you get used to changes in those things, but the view can sometimes make you gasp, and sometimes it couldn’t even raise a shrug. If beauty was universal it wouldn’t be so precious, the landscape seems to know that and save up it’s splendour for those big ta-da moments.

In Kanturk I stopped for about an hour just sitting in the park watching the ducks and drinking tea. It was after 5 when I set off, hoping to reach Rockchurch at the top of the mountain. Now here was what I was expecting to be hard cycling hills but  my progress was way better than I hoped. There were even two 180 degree turns, it got that steep, which gave me deja vu for Forclaz.

Rockchapel turned out to be on the downward side but there wasn’t much to it. It was nearly 8pm but I’d decided to push on and get a B&B, so I needen’t worry about available light to find and set up camp. In the end I had to go as far as Abbetfeale and in the process crossed from Cork to Kerry and into Limerick without passing a welcome sign for any of them. I spent the night in the Santa Maria ‘Select Accommodation’ where Theresa the owner, with no upper teeth (in for service, back Friday) and using a zimmer frame (bad knee, down for replacement next month) made me a big pot of tea and fairy cakes then left me to relax in her warm living room.

I woke up this morning, at 11.30 with Theresa trying to come into the room. I was close to oversleeping and she was gonna give me a wee shove to get me out of bed! Only in Ireland. She left me to my own devices and I packed up while watching the rain belting down outside. I rolled into Abbeyfeale town and on out the Kerry road in search of a sign. I’d still missed the Cork and Limerick ones, but I’m certain there weren’t any. I was travelling on some very small, less travelled roads. As I was already late, I decided to get myself an big fry up breakfast. As I was locking my bicycle up outside the café an old guy called Pat roped me into conversation about my trip, but he wasted no time in bring Jesus into the conversation. He seemed nice enough, so I let him put his hand on my shoulder and say a quick prayer. He gave me a little prayer card, which was nice. And €20, which was nicer! I’ve raised over 2k with this trip so any more cash I might get, like I did from Pat today, can go towards paying for the road. I’m tight on cash as it is, that’s why I’m trying to camp wild as much as I can.

There were some tough hills out of Abbeyfeale but at the other side the road became much easier and mostly downhill all the way to Adare. Just what I needed to make up lost time. Enought time to get me to Limerick by 5pm in fact, much sooner than I thought I would, and that caught me up to me previous expectations. I’m getting good at judging my performance. It becomes a way to focus as you’re pedalling along, watching the miles go by and timing them. I was able to push on as far as Killaloe, but again missed a sign for Clare, and/or Limerick. Some of the smaller roads just don’t seem to have them. Some of the roads I’m following just pop into and out of neighbouring counties. No signs mark this, however. I have a completion issue, and I wanted to get those 32 photos. I’ve lost out on four so far now.

By the by, I made it 5 miles beyond Killaloe to this campsite on Lough Derg. I had a few pints earlier in the Lough Derg Leisure Centre, and now I’m sitting in the door of my tent with a cuppa, a smoke and you, dear diary. If I point my head skyward the light from my head-torch climbs up the thick bare trunks of the trees around me. The wind off the lake only 20 feet away is rustling everything around me including this damn page. So I’m putting you away to leave room for tomorrow. And I’m going to lie on my back for a while with my torch lit, watching the treetops swaying and imagine that I’m on a forest moon in a galaxy far, far away.

12:33am

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8:10pm, Tuesday evening, September 3rd, 2002

(Average: 10.9 mph / Time: 5.22.00 / Distance: 63.26 / Odometer: 131.5 miles)

That was a really tough day, and I’m ready to cheat. I’m prepared to cheat. Actually, I’m just about to cheat. More on that in a while.

This morning’s route looked ok on the map. There didn’t seem to be anything too daunting on it. I was even prepared psychologically for the third hill. The next three were killers, though, and the three after that I don’t want to talk about. (I’m gonna pause to take a picture of this scene before my water boils for tea)

I had to walk up quite a few hills, I have to say. (Hold that thought, I just realised something important. Get back to you later.)

8:26pm

10:37pm, Monday night, September 2nd, 2002

(Average: 12.4 mph / Time: 5.29.22 / 68.17 miles / Odometer: 68.1)

I’m impressed with myself. And considering that I started out a bit fed up, that’s high praise. I wasn’t ready to go at sunrise, like I had hoped. I didn’t actually get on the road until 12:25pm! But despite that I’ve done really well to get to Bagnelstown.

The first hour was probably the hardest. I don’t know if it was because I was daunted by what lay ahead of me, or if the hills really were fierce steep. That initial flush of exhilaration you get at the moment you set off, knowing that the real adventure has just started soon wears off. It takes three hills.

The first is tackled with gusto. The second seems wearily familiar and you lapse into a complacent resignation. But the third one in a row makes you want to stop. It’s like the feeling you get when you’re going out on a night you’ve planned but which slowly starts to unravel before you leave the house. First someone cancels and you’re disappointed, but shrug your shoulders. Then the remaining people decide to go to a different venue. One you hate. Then your taxi is an hour late. At that point the night looses all interest for you and you decide to skip it and get a video instead.

That third hill felt something like that. I just wanted to stop there and then. That’s almost entirely down to the difference between riding a laden and an unladen bicycle. The bike weighs about the same as I do, maybe a little more. That really slows me down on even a slight hill, and when I slow down the weight on either side of the front wheel makes it a bit unstable. So I have to redirect some of my energy just to keep myself pointing straight ahead.

But I can’t stop. Apart from the charity side of it, I’ve been banging on about crossing the Alps to anyone who bothered to listen for the last few months. But the truth is the Alps nearly fecking killed me. I broke down crying near the top of  the Col de Forclaz because I’d never been more exhausted. Myself and Garv had spent three full days in a waterlogged tent during a storm with feck all to eat, and I’d had the shits for the last two of them. What a fuckin’ day that was.

So I couldn’t let a wee hill in Wicklow beat me, now could I? Up I went, pushing the bike ahead of me, wondering how long until I did give up. Kerry? Donegal? I trudged on up, wallowing in the agony of it. So much so that I totally forgot about Newton’s apple. Before I knew it I was looking at a long straight road that seemed to go downhill forever. I rested for a few minutes, looking at it. I’d been excited setting off, and those three hills in a row had put a real damper on that. But here I was with the bike leaning into a small hedge, and me leaning back on the bike with one elbow on the saddle to support myself. My right hand was multi-tasking. It pressed play on my Walkman, then it got the coke bottle from the handlebar bag to my mouth and back again, and finally it lit my cigarette as the slow synth sounds of Depeche Mode’s New Life came on. And when Dave Gahan started singing I broke out into the widest grin ever, looking down at that road. I knew I was having a moment.

There’s nothing like the naked pleasure of coasting along on a bicycle on a beautiful sunny day. I coasted down for what felt like five minutes, but was probably less. By the time the ground started to rise again my mood had been lifted and it wasn’t so hard to face. There was a smashing sight just after Blessington, not far past the lake, where at the crest of a hill, off to your left is a stunning view of several peaks in the Wicklow mountains laid out in a neat row. The hill was my moment, and that one was definitelya Bulfin moment.

By the time I stopped in Baltinglass at 4pm I knew that I was finding the going easier than expected. Considering that the gears aren’t set up properly I’ve been lucky that the few that work are just the ones I need on this terrain. Leaving Baltinglass, a desolate spot if you ask me, I took my first pedal off the beaten track (Freud, c’mere!). I went onto a small regional road, and of course it was instantly more enjoyable, and not totally pot-holed. There were people along it. There was industry and agriculture. It’s harvest time, which is a fab sight at sunset. And there was plenty of wildlife too. Mostly rats. All along the hedgerows. Big feckers too.

That wee road eventually took me into Carlow. I called my friend Brian, thinking I might be able to call round and bunk down for the night, but he was up in Dublin today. Typical!

Carlow then, the not inoffensive distant Suburb of Dublin that it is, managed to thwart all attempts at escape. I’d been looking forward to it because it’s on the border with Laois, so all I needed to do was cycle a little way up a street and take a snap of the Welcome to County Laois sign and then retrace my steps. The sign, when I eventually found it (35 min) was ten foot off the ground, tiny and looked like a National Monument signpost. But I got my snap. I’m trying to get a photo of every welcome sign with the bike in the shot.

Getting onto the road to Bagnelstown took me another hour. Directions from locals were as confusing as the signs. By the time I go onto the right road it was after 7pm. As I began scouting for camping sites all I could see were field after field of wheat and corn, newly harvested and no good for camping. I don’t mind saying it, I was getting a bit concerned: I didn’t fancy bivvying out there with the rats. Luckily I got directions to a field sometimes used by the local scouts. Now I’m about half-a-mile down an overgrown canal towpath, over a footbridge and down into some farmer’s field. I don’t know if it’s the right one, but it’ll do for tonight.

I barely had time to get the tent pitched before the light was gone for good. It’s amazing what an appetite will do, all the same. I had the tent up and dinner cooked in about 25 minutes. All my gear is ready for the off tomorrow, too. Hope I wake up!!

Yes, a very hard start. But my sister will be happy to hear that her Tarot thingy last night was accurate, ‘The sun will shine on all you do.’ The weather really worked for me today. The bike also worked well, and I did too. I’m going to pack you away now, roll a joint and smoke it out here in the dark, listening to the sounds of the countryside: a dog barking,  traffic, the odd train. All off in the distance. It’s so dark here. No moon tonight. It feels spooky. Ah, but such splendiferous spookiness…

12:21am, Tuesday morning

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5:11am, Monday morning, September 2nd, 2002

Just to get the ball rolling, I’ll tell you that I’m sitting in my flat in Tallaght looking at a heap of camping gear and trying to figure out how to get it all onto my bike. After I do that I need to clean the flat, cut my hair, cook some food, have a bath etc, all before the sun comes up, because I’m starting a round Ireland cycle in a few hours time. All 32 counties in one long, snaking, continuous route. Can’t wait!

5:15am

 

If God must have a story, like Him that story must have a beginning, a way to begin explaining how we all came to be living. Why flowers are pretty and mountains are high and why it takes a watchmaker to fashion an eye. But shouldn’t this story make sense, and stand up to reason? and tell us why we have stomachs, sunlight and seasons. Nature itself is unforgiving and cruel, noteworthy by it’s absence of patience for fools. It needs no creator to light the touch paper on a universe full of gaps. Filling holes with His Holiness and watching logic collapse.

So when it comes to Genesis logic is the nemesis, that lifts the lid on those story’s main premises. There’s no reason that I can see to read beyond The Fall, the point at which God’s plan hits that metaphorical wall. Everything up until the birds and the fishes had perfectly matched His deepest wishes: Five days straight without any slippages. Day six begins quite smoothly, not jittery, with the creation of creatures both ambulatory and slithery. But His vision is lost, His plans turned to dust, when from dust he makes a couple whose purpose is just to live and play in this garden enjoying all that they can see, while giving a wide berth to just one plucking tree.

Not any old tree, not by any degree, but one that let’s you see that nothing is worse, there’s no greater curse, than lounging nakedly. Adam & Eve, the first people deceived, had unwittingly sealed their fate, for when God spied the bits they dared hide he kicked them right out the gate. No second chance, no mitigating circumstance, could save them from his wrath, they had heeded a snake and did therefore forsake the good for the crooked path.

What happened next is right there in the text but it doesn’t get easier to believe, and trust me I’ve tried, I’ve looked at both sides but can’t see what was achieved. By evicting his kids for this one little slip God proves himself to be one righteous prick. Because he hadn’t even defined the punishment for this crime, but merely mentioned death. A concept as yet, to their enduring regret, unknown to all who drew breath. Giving reasons to be obedient is always expedient, but right there at the beginning, before ever there was sinning He was unwilling to behave in any way lenient. With no prior knowledge to call upon, no oral traditions of morality, no conception of the reception their transgression would get them, how guilty were they in reality?

OK, reality is not the best choice of words to apply to a story so patently absurd. But in trying to find a way to engage with the religious mind it must be observed that the reason we are all here, they’ll have you believe, is because of that sin and it’s lack of reprieve. If that tree hadn’t been plucked and it’s succulent fruit so sediciously sucked God’s plan might have gone to plan, but it didn’t, now we’re fucked. Because if things had turned out the way He had apparently intended, The Garden of Eden is where the bible would have ended. And we wouldn’t still have this shit to contend with. No, if Eve had only ignored what that snake had to say, herself and Adam would still be living in the garden today. 

The generations of their children free from all cares, playing with the infants of leopards and bears. Every day beautiful, sunny and dry, nothing to bring a tear to the eye. No thorns on the roses they joyfully pick, eating Deadly Nightshade would not make them sick. No need for doctors or butchers or priests, nobody sins, gets ill or eats meat. Happyness obligatory, fornicating compulsory, an orgy of nakedness let loose in the shrubery. No hint of rain, no incidents of pain, nothing to purchase no toiling for gain. Making babies is the only commandment that God ever gave to those who would never encounter a grave. No Hell below them, above them only sky: Heaven is where you live if you’re never meant to die.

Now picture a situation where unbridled procreation is the only order to follow. And for the sake of speculation let’s run with creation, no matter how difficult to swallow, is a universe so vast for such a small cast to simply sit back and wallow. Riddle me how would life unrestricted, even if it were perpetually gifted, not eventually lead to a garden constricted by the mass of living things on which it was inflicted? On a planet of ants and beetles and plants that outnumber the stars in our sky, I for one can see no fun in a world where none of them die.

Just what kind of mentality accepts as reality that Earth is a gift to God’s peoples? When Haldane noted, as is often quoted, God’s ‘inordinate fondness for beetles’. For that one biological order accounts for a quarter of all moving life on our planet. And if you want to stretch reality, try working out mathematically the number of creatures we can fit, if we lickity split simply omit death from our locality. But omit it God did, and eternity did He give, to ‘every living thing that mov-eth’. And if He’d had his way, as I’ll repeatedly say, that is where the story should have end-eth…

But disobedience to the maker, to the first time creator, of everything that we can see caused the first couple a whole heap of trouble and screwed us all indefinitely. Because God could have said ‘My bad, if only I had not pointed out that tree. Or left it barren of fruit, a torturous root not worthy of your curiosity. I should have made it tall and impossible to pick, or found a safe place to stick, this most deadly of plants and removed any chance of it ever falling under your glance. Maybe the snake was the bigger mistake. I thought a forked tongue and a larynx high hung would make him effectively dumb. But I’m the dumb one, and look what I’ve done, such a shame this is not a dry run. So the consequence I see for all humanity is a lowly and desperate fate, you must worship and praise me, and hope that I’ll save ye from a Hell that I now must create. No, I really must censure your gullible nature or what kind of teacher would I be? If you were simply forgiven, what lesson in livin’ would that be from me to thee?

My mind is made up and I know this may suck, but from now till the end of days, a most hateful existence at my own insistence awaits anyone who disobeys. For I now see before me an opportunity for Glory, not to be mistaken for Pride, as your decendants in their billions become my minions, while I simply hide. The longer you go, the more than you learn, the less likely am I going to seem. But you’ll still be required, no matter what transpires, to keep believing this meme.

So get out of my garden, my resolve has been hardened, and I’m no longer feeling so kind. I’ll give you thistles and rain, demand sacrifice and pain, as punishment for being undermined. Childbirth will incur labour, and as the sheriff of your behaviour I want you to keep your hands out of your pants. I’ll now decide what’s wrong and what’s right in any given circumstance. I’ll put all of this in a book that will eventually look like the ramblings of a feeble mind, full of torture and death, pillage and rape, delusions of the grandest kind. Then we’ll see, who believes in me, and who will be left behind.

So now the ground needs tilling, and you best get used to killing, I’m going to need plenty of that. As you pay for your vice with blood sacrifice by cutting the heads off your chickens. And as a matter of fact, although it might show poor tact, I’m going to insist on this: after all your advances, your progress from trances induced in credulous heads, the battle will be drawn between those who were born to insist that I surely exist, and those who expose me as myth. I’ll fuck with your heads, I’ll give you no rest as you scramble around for a clue. You’ll be swamped with religion each sharing a smidgen but with no way to tell which is true. Let’s see how you like them apples as the human mind grapples with the nature of what you call God.

Ok back to reality, back to me, back to your good friend Daithi. I’m gettin’ carried away and I’m startin’ to say some things about which I disagree. But it’s easily done, and it’s so much fun to let your imagination run free. But it’s time to speak clearly as I lay out my theory of where the bible comes from. 

It’s definitely not divine, or else we would find more logic and reason in it’s pages, than was there to be found in the minds of scribes from the late Bronze and the early Iron ages. To me it seems clear that the real godhead here is the capacity of humans to think. There is no height that we can’t reach and no depth to which we can’t sink. But our greatest treasure, the source of all pleasure, is the organ between our ears. It is the font of all joy, the root of all fears, and our pilot through this vale of tears. But it’s a dreadful mistake to think it can’t make one thing appear like another. So it’s no great wonder that when we came to ponder the question of whence we came, that with little to go on and much to explain we came up with the answer we did. It’s just a shame that the modern brain still labours and fumbles amid, the fantastical story, masquerading as Glory, that we are a sky daddy’s kids.

The story of Harold Camping’s 2011 Rapture campaign is growing cold in the public’s imagination, but we had no want for coverage on May 21st, when the prophecy that Camping’s prophecies were false came true. That was a bad day for the Electronic Bible Fellowship. But the media swarm on Camping when he resurfaced days later to offer his explanations was practically the last that was heard of him.

The five months of global catastrophe, death and abomination he predicted leading up to the end of the world on October 21st were anything but. The world is in some turmoil, definitely, but when is it not? We had famine in Somalia, flooding in Pakistan, Cambodia and Thailand. There was a Volcanic eruption in Chile. There was the terrible massacre in Sweden by Anders Breivik. The financial crisis has rolled on, as have the various wars and terrorist attrocities we’ve endured with such intensity for the last decade or more.

That still didn’t add up to the kind of apocalyptic scenario that Camping’s Electronic Bible Fellowship CD led me to expect. I sent for my copy of the CD at the start of this year. I’ve had it now for about seven months, but I’m still a long way from getting through all the tracts and sermons included. It’s tough work to put yourself through. Each sermon is an hour or more of monotone drivel. I listened to about 10 hours of it in the first week after it arrived, looking for soundbites for a YouTube video I wanted to put together for May 21st. It was very hard to sit through. It was repetitive and tiresome and  it can be reasonably broken down into a few key points.

There is the explanation of how the bible was interpreted to calculate the dates. Which involved a lot of elaborate wrangling to get around those parts of scripture that state very clearly that it is not possible for any human to determine ‘the day or the hour’.

Then there were the descriptions of what is going to happen on Rapture day after the faithful had disappeared. These amounted to little more than glee at the fate of the faithless. There were endless, and bizarrely specific details such as it would be very difficult to have a shower or take a bath after the Rapture. Well, it would be, as the earth was to be buckled my thousands of earthquakes that would dislodge all the pipes. Chris McCann, the pastor whose voice is heard on most of the sermons had a never ending stream of such trivial details. The product of an feverishly over-active imagination.

His foresight into the state of life on Earth in the five months leading up to October 21st was astounding in it’s inaccuracy. This last decade has given eschatalogical preachers a gold mine of topics to lend credibility to their nonsense. Wars, terrorism and financial collapse, political shenanigans, natural disasters, gay rights and marriage, sex scandals, and all the other things that indicate a broken world ready for Jesus to call judgement on. The same troubling times make certain people vulnerable to charlatans like Harold Camping.

But the last five months have seen some great things happen. Some hopeful, inspiring and wonderful things. The Arab Spring has moved through the Arab world as the population of one oppressed nation after another rose up against tyrrany. Ratko Mladić, the Bosnian Serb butcher was finally arrested for genocidal war crimes. India and Bangladesh ended their four decade old border dispute. Muamar Gaddafi was finally killed. ETA, the Basque seperatist movement of northern Spain officially ended it’s 43 year-old campaign of terror and political violence.

Science too has ignored the warnings of apocalypse, and Camping’s rebuke of those who were making plans for anything past May 21st. The first artificial human organ transplant took place in Sweden in June. A 3D computer model of 36-year-old African patient, Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene’s own windpipe was used to create a glass replica. This was then soaked in the patients own stem cells, and nanotechnological processes constructed the replica organ. Because it was a replica of his own, and constructed from his own cells there was no need for the drug treatment normally needed to control the bodies rejection of foreign material. This technology will soon be adapted to create a number of different organs for transplant, removing the need for waiting lists and the possibility of organ rejection by patients bodies.

The Space Shuttle program ended on July 21st, with Atlantis’ safe return. Far from being an end to space exploration, this paves the way from an entirely different space program. More use of robotics will be the key to the next phase as new technologies are tried out. The first solar powered spacecraft was launched on August 5th, and is now on it’s way to Jupiter. On that same day NASA announced that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter had photographic evidence of possible liquid water on Mars, giving new impetus to the search for life there and also making Mars even better suited to human exploration.

And around the world the Occupy movement had seen ordinary people speak out and protest the scandalous situation where those who shaped the financial meltdown are being assisted back to prosperity, while their victims are being asked to pay the bill.

These are all hopefull signs for what is to come. Just because terrible things have been happening, that doesn’t mean that we won’t find a better way. We may always have wars and terror and exploitation and deprevation to deal with, but the true human response to that is to keep on looking for that better way. We keep looking to make those small steps forward that will make life better for us all. Where there is oppression, we oppose it. Where there is hypocrisy, we expose it.

What troubled me most about this year’s Rapture nonsense was the lack of faith such people have in humanity. How their beliefs closed off for them even the possibility that in our own hands we could make good on all that is bad. Or that we should even try. It is this fatalism that troubles me most about religion. Camping and his followers are only a small part of the lunatic fringe, there are many others like him. But they are only the fringe to a wider swathe of believers in similarly unfounded claims. They all hold the ultimate belief that life on earth is doomed to ultimate judgement. The notion that no matter how far we progress will will always fall short of some creators ideals.

So I don’t want Camping to slip off quietly into the night. I’m not satisfied to hold him up for ridicule as an example of religion gone wrong. To me, he is an example of religion as it really is. The belief that we are imperfect from birth, need to apologise for this until we die and then spend eternity thanking God for the opportunity. This belief that we are destined to fail is the strongest resistance to any kind of social, cultural and scientific change aimed at improving our finite lives, and the countless lives to come. We can help safeguard future life on this planet, and potentially on other planets besides or own. That is an actual possibility these days. We can conceivably do things that not even the wildest dreaming religious zealot has ever dared to claim that their god could do. Please don’t ask me to ignore that.

Here are a few Rapture related videos I posted  on YouTube.
This first one was my contribution to a collaboration that was called The Day After The Rapture. The collaboration video was released on May 22nd, and was addressed to the disappointed members of Camping’s cult.
If you are a member of the of the electronic bible fellowship
and you find yourself today, the 22nd of May
Dejected, rejected, denied your rapturous trip
Then take some solace from these comforting words I'll say

God has not denied you a place at his side
And Jesus has not neglected his most faithful pride
You were not forsaken, but your pastors mistaken
There never was a plan for you to be taken

There is no God in Heaven, no everlasting realm
No self replicating son, born of a virgin at the helm
No purposefully created demonic gaoler in Hell
Just this beautiful assemblage of atoms on which we all dwell

There is no pre-ordained ending of days
No immortal soul, no creator to praise
There is no heavenly host to battle ultimate evil
You are no more likely that the lowliest weevil

But take some comfort in the unlikeliness of your birth
Of your extraordinary existence on this island Earth
Don't let a day pass without valuing your worth
For the atoms of dead stars that are temporarily You
Will all too soon be recycled, giving sustenance to dirt.

But if you believe in Rapture, and you consider me to be the loon
Don't be too downhearted, there's bound to be another one soon.
The full collaboration can be found here.
This next one contains the excerpts I had taken from my ten hour sermon-a-thon.
This final one was a quick before, during and after montage of Camping as he looked forward to the Rapture, his response on the day and his press conference in the aftermath of his failure.

I decided not to make a video about the October 21st end of the world deadline. I think there have been enough videos made about Camping this year, and they weren’t really serving any great purpose. I have been making and posting videos about religion and atheism for about a year now, and I’m starting to loose some interest. My opinions are unchanged, but I’ve been feeling lately that most atheist videos are just variations on each other. There are very few fresh ideas, and the more variations on those fresh ideas that get added, the more watered down becomes the message.

This is part of a broader issue I have with YouTube right now, and I think it’s something I’ll save for another post. So for now, I’ll put Mr. Camping to bed for a while. I think I’ll revisit him sometime, but only as part of the rise of end time religious fervour that is a long way from ending yet.

6:22am, Sunday morning, October 30th

October is all but over and in less than a week I will turn 42. I don’t intend to celebrate this, even though I have often thought that I would. I remember very little of my 40th birthday. Actually that’s a lie, right now I don’t remember it at all. It may come to me, but I wont force it. Last year I had friends over and we did all the things you’re supposed to have grown out of by your forties. Or at least cut back on.

I hadn’t planned that night. Birthdays have never had any great appeal to me, but I have friends who like to celebrate. Birthdays, holidays, wine sales, road works, you name it they’ll celebrate it. They refused to allow me not to celebrate my birthday. And I didn’t want to be a bad friend, so…

It’s not that I have anything against birthdays, or parties or celebrations. I think I’m just uncomfortable with being the centre of attention. If I put myself there it’s ok, but to be placed there does tend to make me a little jittery. I’m not a wall-flower, I’m not easily embarrassed and I’m not particularly shy. I am, however, a lot more comfortable watching than being watched. And I love to watch people. I do this an awful lot, but I can safely say that I don’t do it critically. I’m not summing people up or making judgements, just observing. Trying to figure them out. Trying to answer the questions I most want answered: how do people be people? What do people do?

Perhaps, I’ve sometimes wondered, my reticence to be in that spotlight of attention is actually the fear that someone looking for the same things might come to the conclusion that I don’t seem to know how to be a person. That I just don’t have the knack of it. Maybe birthdays are especially bad times to find myself in such situations. I should have that down pat by my age. Whatever age I am, or have been. Of course, on my birthday that figure is one larger than it ever was before and therefore one worse than yesterday.

Around three years ago (I’m pretty sure I was due to turn 39, but as I don’t pay them much attention I can’t be sure) I thought I’d hit on a scheme to avoid celebrating my birthday. I disabled my date of birth on Facebook so that none of my friends would be reminded of their duty to wish me a happy one. My housemate knew that it was in November but wasn’t sure of the date. Sometime around this time, about two weeks from my birthday, she asked me when it was and I gave her a date that was about three weeks after the actual date. The thinking was that I would have time to tell her that the day had passed and that no celebrations were necessary. My actual birthday came and went without any fuss and it was perfect. I had to do the family thing, of course, but I’m used to that and it’s a small family.

The weeks passed and I forgot about the erroneous date I had given my friend. One evening she arrived back from the pub with another friend in tow. It was early for them to be back and when I asked them why so, they broke into a slightly drunken version of Happy Birthday. As the penny dropped they misread the expression on my face and said ‘We know you don’t like to celebrate your birthday you wierdo, but you have to do something. So drink up!

Sharing a drink and some laughs with friends is always a good thing and once the singing and hugging was over with it was just like any other Friday in our house. It all went fine until my housemate went to the toilet and my other friend asked a simple question: ‘So when was your birthday?’

What she meant was, was it Wednesday, Thursday or today? If your birthday is Monday or Tuesday you might celebrate it the weekend before. I found myself trying to remember what date I had said to the housemate, and that pause gave me away. ‘Hang on a minute. You have to think about that? What’s going on?’  And so I had to quickly explain what I’d done.

What are you two laughing about?’ the housemate asks, coming back into the room. ‘Well we just left the pub early to come home and celebrate this eejits birthday and it was three weeks ago!’ And we laughed some more. What else can you do? When you’re caught you’re caught.

When that friends arrived up for last year’s party she double checked with me that it was actually my birthday. I even had to produce my passport!

Birthdays aren’t impossible, I am. This is just one of the seemingly countless quirks of my personality. But turning 42 was supposed to be different. This is something that has been on my mind ever since I read The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. The computer Deep Thought, having been asked to provide the answer to the ultimate question of life, the Universe, and everything, gave the answer as 42. To better understand this answer, Deep Thought created a computer powerful enough the generate the correct question. That computer was the Earth, and was unfortunately destroyed just before the end of it’s program. To save time, the pan-dimensional beings who had made it decided to make up their own question to explain the enigmatic answer of 42 given by Deep Thought. Their question was How many roads must a man walk down?

I loved every word that Douglas Adams wrote, and the order he put them in. I can’t remember when I read that book for the first time, probably something like 25 years ago. Sometime in my mid teens. And since then it has been in the back of my mind that one day I would find myself turning 42. How many roads would I have walked down by then, I often wondered. The closer I got, the more I realised that that number would be a lot less than 42, but still more than many others that I know.

What is a road? And how do you know that you’re on one, or have just left one for another? Well, experience tells you that you’re on one, and time tells you that you’ve left one. Some people find a road they like very early on in their adult life and stay on it for ever after. They stick it out and become masters of it and never seem to tire of it. Some people start to loose interest in their road and make the brave decision to find another. A change is as good as a rest and all that.

Me? I’m never sure. Do I like this road? Did I choose it, or just find myself on it? Does it lead me anywhere useful? Will it be my last road, or should I keep a bag packed, just in case?

I’ve moved lots of times, and I’ve had more careers than I care to think about. But I get itchy feet, and after a maximum of five years I’m always looking to change something fundamental. Where I live, what I do, or both.

Now, as 42 is just around the corner I find myself wanting to change the question. How many more roads must this man walk down? I find myself living in the same place for 5 years. That’s longer than anywhere outside of my family home. And I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for a living for almost 6 years. That’s longer than I’ve done anything else. But things aren’t going great. This recession has made it very tough for those of us who make their own work. In the past I may have taken this as an opportunity to start fresh.  But I’m turning 42 and I find that I don’t want to make those big changes. Not now, anyway. But the idea is there in the back of my mind where it waits patiently for the right moment.

The 42 year old I though I would be was supposed to have finished wandering. I’m tired of being a gypsy. So next week when the time finally comes, I wonder what I’ll do. I can’t possibly know now, I’ve never been good at planning that far in advance.