Staging the End of the World in Pursuit of Happiness

The day of the Rapture came and went yesterday. We should be hiding from the fire raining from the sky in the remains of Los Angeles, pondering over whether to resort to cannibalism now that resources are slim or to eat the burned rats floating in the rivers of lava, but instead my wife is knitting on the balcony in the evening sun and I’m writing my thought on the end of world and what that does to my well being before going to the cinema later tonight.

The thing is, I feel pretty good. And a big reason for that is that the world didn’t end yesterday, and that made me really happy. We didn’t make a big thing of it my wife and I, but we did go outside on the balcony a minute before 6pm to see the skies crack open (or whatever was supposed to happen), and when that didn’t happen we toasted in a glass of excellent red wine and went on in our fabulous Saturday night. I know intellectually that of course the world wasn’t going to end, but the whole Rapture thing has stirred quite a bit of excitement around me the last couple of weeks. Harold Camping and his posse of Christian cultists definitely did a fine PR job, since everybody and their mother knew the Rapture was supposed to happen yesterday. I shared in the excitement – not the hysteria – and yesterday when the world didn’t end, I felt quite good about it. And I’m not even a believer, but what I did was allow myself to feel happy about it. It other words I staged a situation where the fact that the world didn’t end at 6pm led to me feeling happy and it worked. I had a great night last night.

There is this American principle of the right to pursue happiness. That’s pretty abstract to me, but I believe I’ve found an interpretation that works for me: It’s all about staging situations in your life that will eventually lead to a feeling of happiness. I can’t actually take credit for this idea, I got it from Danish stage director Peter Langdal in 1998. He was giving a guest lecture at the University of Copenhagen where I was studying to be bachelor of Theatre Science at the time. I honestly don’t remember what the lecture was about, but I remember his description of how he staged situations in his everyday life that would lead to intense feelings of happiness. As an example he explained how he would tell his children – I’m guessing they were 5-6 years old at the time – to wait behind for a while as he would walk up the driveway of his allotment house. He would then turn around to look at his children and tell them to run towards him. The sight of his two beloved children running towards him up the driveway would lead to an intense feeling of happiness, and that was all staged. I loved the idea back then and I’ve tried my best to set things up in a way so that I can do myself that favour as often as possible.

My wedding is a great example of such a staged event on a very large scale and the end of the world is an example on a very small scale. I know the real end of the world is a big thing, but since this was an imaginary end of the world, it was simply a matter of setting it up in my mind so that I would be relieved by the world not ending.

Another example is the diet my wife and I have started following this last month. I will not bore you with the details about the actual diet, suffice to say that it is a low carb / high protein diet. The important element in the context of this post is the Cheat Day. Every Saturday my wife and I are allowed to eat and drink whatever we want to. It works wonders for us. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed food and drink as much as I do on my cheat day. And we don’t even eat anything terribly out of the ordinary, it’s just a matter of eating the things we can’t (and don’t) eat on the normal days. Behold our breakfast from yesterday:

It’s really simple and it’s completely staged by yours truly, but it makes me feel really good.

So maybe Harold Camping was really out to do us all a gigantic favour announcing the end of the world. In realising the world didn’t end yesterday hopefully we all learned to appreciate it more. I’m thinking he’s got plenty of money from contributions, and I guess he can always blame it on a mis-interpretation of the Book of Job (again) and pull out his holy calculator to predict the next end of the world. But next time he should try to place it on a bank holiday weekend so that all of his followers have an extra day to make it back to the mid west to square things out with the job they quit to go to California to be in the front rows of the Apocalypse.

Happy afterlife, everybody …


  1. Anonymous

    >Sune says:

    I am smiling all over. And I do absolutely love the concept of the cheat day. We have a sort of a fishy-veggie thing going, meaning that once a week I'll allow myself to cook up a lamb roast or an entrecote or something like that. And the fact that we only eat red meat once a week makes me worship the feeling of animal fat drizzling down my throat.