The scene: the supermarket checkout line this afternoon. The woman ahead of me and the clerk are having an animated conversation.
Clerk: “I’ve read the Left Behind books, you know. It makes you think, it really does.”
Woman: “Yes, it’s just like Revelation now.”
Woman: “You know Our Lady of Guadalupe? Well, she’s from Mexico City too. So it makes sense that it would start there.”
Clerk: “Though I thought it wouldn’t be until 2012.”
Woman: “You have to be ready to meet Our Maker anytime. I think this is it, though.”
Clerk: “The Aztec calendar is more accurate than ours, isn’t that true.”
Woman finishes paying, walks away. As I leave the store, she’s looking over her receipt carefully and heads back into the store, looking to question something on the bill. As I head out the door, I look back and she’s energetically showing the receipt to the manager.
Nice! Do you think this is an instance of flipping between magical and rational/legal thinking? Or was she torturing the manager with another confabulation, this one having to do with a sale she’s sure she heard about from her girlfriend and something about prices at another store she went to a couple of weeks ago?
Or are they two instances of rigorous thinking in cognitively distinct domains? Is there a coherent way that rapture + Mexico + OLG ‘adds up’ just like potroast + Sanka + iceberg lettuce and $16.51 + $2.35 (on special, double coupon) + $1.50?
Compartmentalization, I think. A kind of literacy in apocalypse-as-pleasant-smalltalk discussion (follow the stories, know the important points) without much consideration of the implications for everyday life.
Definitely compartmentalization — and the same kind of failure of imagination that powers the Left Behind series. A couple billion people vanished last week, hundreds of planes fell from the sky, but nobody cares, life goes on the same. You believe in The Rapture, but not the rapture.