After the Great Disappointment, as the day when the world didn't end came to be known, most of the Millerites renounced their faith and went on with their lives. Some recalculated the date of the apocalypse: it was going to happen in 1846, or 1853, or, anyway, soon. And a few asserted that Jesus had come back, and that he'd shut the doors of salvation to all unbelievers - in other words, to anyone who wasn't them. Believing that their souls were out of danger, they gave themselves over to free love and "promiscuous foot-washing," something I've always wondered about. For these "shut-door" Millerites, the world had ended; what they continued to experience was only a sort of appendix to history, in which a few problems that remained obscure in the body of the text would be resolved. What led these otherwise reasonable people to believe that the world was going to end, that it had ended? It was an interesting question.
SAN FRANCISCO, CITY OF GHOSTS
I woke up at dawn the next day, to the sound of a fire truck headed east on Sixteenth Street - for some reason they always went east. My body hurt with tiredness, but I dragged myself out of bed, made coffee and began mechanically to put my notes back in their filing cabinet; then with a sudden rush of resentment I carried the files downstairs and dumped them in the recycling bin. I went upstairs, put my clean laundry in the bag I'd just unpacked and wrote an e-mail to Mac, saying that an emergency had come up and I needed two weeks off. I left Alice a message, threw out the uneaten food in my refrigerator, emptied the trash and carried my bag down to Norman Mailer's car.
Four days and three turns later I was in Thebes.
Copyright © 2011 by Paul La Farge
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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