Sunday, May 29, 2011

Harold Camping & the Hudson River: the real meaning of rapture

Now that a week has passed since the day that Harold Camping had predicted that the world would end and the Rapture would take his Faithful to heaven, the time has come to confess that my wife and I, on that last, ostensibly fateful, Saturday of May 21 joined a procession of a very different sort than Camping was predicting.

Instead of some massive version of Ingmar Bergman’s wonderful, but lugubrious vision of a Danse Macabre from the finale of his film, The Seventh Seal...

The Seventh Seal, Danse Macabre

we enjoyed a few celebratory hours of mirth and entertainment at the second annual Hudson River Pageant, put on by Earth Celebrations.... 

Hudson River Pageant, River Spirits

The purpose of this event, according to its organizers, is “to restore the Hudson River and address climate change in New York City.” Earth Celebrations identifies itself as an ecological arts organization, and it managed to include all of the arts in the process of an afternoon consisting of thirteen distinct and peripatetic events, starting with a “River Spirits Initiation” at the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City Park and ending with a “Boat Dance and Harmonic Chant Concert” at the Gansevoort Street Pier on the Hudson River Park. Dance, theater, poetry, music, song, painting, and sculpture all were enlisted in the service of this celebratory event.

Rather than attempt to describe it, I will offer a few pictures that I took during the first hour (after which my wife and I went into the West Village to have a late lunch). But these photos only capture a bit of the spirit of the occasion, so to augment them, here are titles of some of the later events that we missed: “Paddle Board Dance” (with kayakers); “Oyster Planting Ceremony;” “Live Fish Release!;” “Honoring of the Lenape Indians.”

Workshops on art, ecology, puppet building and costume making began in March in preparation for this event, and given the day that it took place, it’s hard not to think of what could have been done had Earth Celebrations had a small fraction of the $100-million (a conservative estimate) that Harold Camping has received and spent to publicize his (promised) May 21 Judgement Day.

So here are a few pictures in celebration of a small segment of this wonderful world that belongs to all of us and that no self-styled scriptural misinterpreter will ever take from us:

Estuary Puppet
(one of several 15' high river species puppets)

Sea Horse & Fish

Some Processants

Procession on Hudson River Walk

Big Fish and Handlers on a break

Water Nymph (I think), gliding on skates

Personifying something specific, as they all do, but I'll just call him "Leaf Man"

River Grass Maidens
(crowns of native grass grown from seed for this event)

Sea Horse

Toxic Dumping

Toad Fish

Dance of the River Grass
(Hudson River Park, bet. Laight & Vestry Sts.)

River Rap: Sludge
(Hudson River Park, at Canal St.)

River Rap: Oil Spill
(Hudson River Park, at Canal St.)

Keep in mind that this pageant took over three hours and covered a fair distance of beautiful and inviting urban waterfront. In contrast to thirty years ago, a New Yorker today can walk or bike from the bottom of Manhattan up to, and beyond the George Washington Bridge, in fact, right up to Inwood Hill Park and the Henry Hudson Bridge into the Bronx. When a city recovers its waterfront as an amenity for all of its citizens to enjoy, it becomes more human and engages its entire community. With the building of Battery Park City and its connecting Hudson River Park, New York has opened up a place to celebrate the serendipity of life. People fish, picnic, sunbathe, bike, roller-skate, jog, play tennis, meet for concerts, talks, trysts, and even schedule pageants that celebrate the best in life and human interaction.

How much more life-enhancing was this Hudson River Pageant than its anticipated, coincident event of last Saturday--that medieval-like embrace of fear, death and cultural hysteria that took place in many pockets of this world as Camping’s deluded Followers awaited the Rapture in vain? 

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