A World Without End

You may be surprised by the things I have to tell you. I will try to keep it short, but bear with me, as there are many details that should be shared, if you are to properly understand how it is that I came to the very brink of immortality.

It sounds impossible, doesn’t it? But you must know that research into this had been ongoing for a long time. Billions of dollars had been poured into genetic manipulations, hormone therapies, stem-cell utilizations, not to mention untold resources devoted to the means of hybridizing humans and robots—and merging artificial intelligence with human, to extend the life, indefinitely, of human beings. All of these had been undertaken with the goal of stopping the aging process, or reversing it, or if all else failed, creating ourselves anew—using better parts which could be replenished, recharged, or replaced, over and over again, forever without end. So that we would not know death.

The greatest minds and the deepest pockets of our age—and of generations prior to ours—had devoted themselves to this noble goal. So that none of us would ever have to say goodbye to our loved ones again. Imagine, how wonderful to live forever with those you love, loving them deeply, being together, never again to be separated by disease or death.

Thanks to men and women, like myself, this was no longer a mere dream, nor was it simply wistful thinking, but it had become the reality. Certainly, we had been near this pinnacle of human achievement for some time; and inevitably, we had now reached the very top.

You may be thinking to yourself, there must be a catch. Immortality, here and now is just too good to be true. You’re thinking that something was bound to go wrong. But what if there wasn’t a catch, and it isn’t too good to be true, and it didn’t go wrong? What if man had finally found the fountain of youth? And with a few simple tricks of nature manipulated by us—a little nudge here and there, a little snip-snip, and a few sacrifices along the way—eternity opened its doors.

I will admit there had been unexpected deaths along the way. We made mistakes and some compromises were made, which we all wished could have been avoided, but remember—the ends justify the means! Especially when it comes to attaining eternal life—the goal is the most important thing! Don’t trouble yourself too much about how we got there.

Death never made much sense to me. How could we exist one moment and then be gone the next? No. It always struck me as one huge mistake, the worst mistake of all. So we set about to remedy that mistake, and do what God (if there was one) couldn’t, or wouldn’t; we made man immortal. And life was finally blessed; and we found it good—very good indeed—at the beginning.

For those of us who could make use of this new technology we enjoyed bodies which no longer suffered disease. Our muscles didn’t atrophy, our skin stayed soft and supple, our organs didn’t malfunction, and our minds never fell into decline. Those who couldn’t enjoy these benefits—for a variety of reasons—experienced no worse than what man always had: a traditional aging process and then an appointment with death. This outdated arrangement was to be pitied, but what could be done about it? We were working on it, but it seemed that immortality just wasn’t going to be for everyone. There had to be winners and losers—not exactly based on merit—but a fair system overall, I think; and it worked. The right people enjoyed the benefits of forever, while the others still enjoyed their life, even if it only lasted a few short decades. No harm was done.

One silver lining—we eliminated the death penalty. We determined it was more punitive to incarcerate someone for eternity than to simply put them to death. It used to be ridiculous when someone who could only live 80 or 90 years at the most, was given 450 years in prison. But now, if they got that term, they served every last minute of it; it was a useful deterrent. Another silver lining—the abortion rate dropped. I can’t speak for everyone, and what I heard about this is only anecdotal, but many women apparently found that carrying a baby for nine months didn’t seem so bad, now that they could live forever—just a drop in the time bucket. And if they chose not to allow their baby the technology—then they’d be gone in a century or even less. And the mothers would have an eternity of youth still to enjoy, after their children had passed away.

I know some of this sounds crass. I’m sorry. But one thing all of us learned from the lesson of immorality is that we didn’t have time to worry about “sounding good”. It is, what it is, as they say. Morality can be tedious, and honestly, sometimes it can get in the way. But here is where the whole experiment got interesting. While we could make ourselves biologically superior, thanks to science and human ingenuity, we weren’t able to use the same tricks to make us better people. In fact, perhaps the opposite occurred. Without the threat of death looming over us, many of us unshackled ourselves from good manners altogether.

With an over-abundance of time, we applied ourselves to the things we did best, and the things we wanted the most, but not necessarily the things that were best for us, or what we needed. Let me explain. With no limit on our time, we could perfect our natural talents. Good businesspeople could get even better, and risk everything, and become rich beyond imagining. They had nothing to lose with so much time at their disposal. Powerful leaders could consolidate their power, destroy their enemies, and eventually rule with an iron-fist. Strong athletes or talented artists could become world famous and leverage this fame for whatever they pleased. Did the immortals prey upon the mortals? Of course. Did they take advantage, and manipulate, and cheat to get ahead? Yes, they did. Perhaps a few didn’t, but I never met any of those.

And what do you think happened when the powerful and the immortal confronted one another—when neither could die—did they make peace? Rarely. They feuded indefinitely and they fell into deep depravity. With no limits upon their time or their desires; they fell into literal bottomless pits of debauchery. We grew evil, hateful, bored and numb to life, and to each other. You would think life should have grown more interesting and more wonderful, with all the time in the world to enjoy it; but it became less so, and it became terrible. Life dragged on and on, like an interminable disease. Many of us desired death but couldn’t find it.

Back in the time when we could die, death had imbued with significance the things that would otherwise seem insignificant, and the possibility of loss intensified the value of what we possessed. For us, immortality devalued life itself. One day I had been walking in the woods. I passed a fern, and on it was a shiny black beetle. It brought to mind a memory of my boyhood, and I stood a moment watching the little creature as it walked along the margins of the leaves. It meant nothing to me and I cared nothing for the insect; but I remembered the wonder I had once known as a boy, watching a similar little creature so many years ago, and before death had become an impossibility for me. The contrast between that childhood joy, and the indifference I now felt, horrified me. And I thought to crush the little thing, but envy held me back; no, if I couldn’t die, then neither shall it.

But this experience made me shudder, and I considered the possibility of God for the first time in my life. Could there be a God—or had there been, at one time—who made this world and my life? And, if so, had he circumscribed my life within limits, for a reason? I mean, for instance, had he given us death, limiting our time on this earth, for a good reason?

Up until then I had simply done what came easy. I followed my instincts and fulfilled my desires. I made use of this life as best I could, and tried to make the best of things. I hadn’t tried to uplift myself in any way, since I was content with myself. But the interminable pain of a never-ending life on this earth finally stimulated me to think above myself, and to hope in something beyond. My scientific training had taught me to observe and theorize, to test my assumptions and conclusions, to observe again, recalibrate, and to learn and grow, ever building upon this process. Yet I had always limited my observations, intentionally or unintentionally, excluding a preponderance of observable phenomena from my field of vision. I allowed science to open my eyes to the things I desired to see, but also to blind me to the things I didn’t wish to consider. The possibility of a new world was then opening up to me, and it impressed upon me that I needed new eyes to see it, and new ears to hear it.

Our immortality promised perfected relationships, ones that could be enjoyed forever and never lost to the separation of death; but what it delivered was isolation and loneliness. Time pressed upon us in new and unforeseen ways. Or rather the lack of that pressure caused us to float about like molecules in a vacuum, drifting further and further apart, each becoming a world unto themselves, devoid of connection and unable to love. We had lost the urgency of life, and thereafter, surprisingly, lost interest in life itself, and in each other. It was as if in seeking after paradise we had accidentally fallen into hell.

I had no idea how to extricate myself from this unexpected predicament. But my mind reflected again and again upon that shiny black beetle, and for whatever reason the creature spoke to me, in a figurative sense. It offered me a new way of living, something more humble, less ambitious, more hopeful and less grasping; that little insect showed me in its strange way, how to lose myself in this world, and find myself again deep within my heart. Somehow, I learned from it, that the way to free myself from this interminable world would be by emptying myself of all I had ever desired, and then accepting my life, not on my own terms, but on terms given by one greater than me. Whoever had given me this life—God I suppose—had to be reckoned with. I could no longer take his place in my own life. I had to relinquish control, abandon all hope in the world I created, and step out in faith into the world created by him—the only real world that ever could exist. The world of our imagining was not a real world after all.

Had we really created immortality for ourselves? It is impossible to say for certain. We were able to extend our lives for hundreds of years—that much we knew. But this came at a tremendous price and depended upon enormous resources, without which we couldn’t sustain our lives. Could we have maintained this feat forever? It seems impossible that we could have, without a break in the supply chain, or a shortage of some vital genetic material, or hormone, or some other medical or scientific advancement upon which the whole house of cards we had created depended.

For myself, I began to listen and to look for other possibilities. A very narrow range of light is visible to the natural eye, and a very narrow range of sound is audible to the human ear, and yet infinities of light and sound exist beyond these narrow ranges. What possibilities there must be then, in our vast universe, for the eyes and the ears of our soul; and what truths must exist beyond the limits of any science predicated only upon our narrow perceptions? Certainly The Bard is correct that there are many more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies.

So I began emptying myself of these philosophies, while seeking truths deeper within my soul. And out of the silence, eventually, I began to see things that caused me to believe. How can I describe these things to you now? They are not easily portrayed in words. I pray that you can believe me, even though I am unskilled at putting flesh to spirit, or conjuring words to explain the inexplicable. But the loneliness I felt, that we all felt in our world without end, began to fall away as I felt a new presence of someone else within my heart. The cold emptiness of space which had filled my heart for hundreds of years, was repopulating with a warmth that promised renewed connections—old loves made new again.

I came to believe that immortality was indeed our birthright, as human beings, but just not in the way we had gone about it. It wasn’t to be had through manipulation and trickery, or by violence. Rather it was to be a gift, a grace, or a blessing if you will—an act of love from the Creator towards his creation. I cannot say how I came to understand this, other than to say that as my heart warmed and was filled, I could now clearly see what had never been previously possible to see, nor had I ever conceived.

And death, what of that? We believed we could outwit it, applying our powers to evade it eternally. But we couldn’t avoid death in our own power. Eventually, I understood this as well—death is unavoidable in this world, and death claims everyone. And yet, if one has eyes to see and ears to hear, one can penetrate into the mystery of death. It too has been circumscribed, just as we have been. There is a limit to death. Death will not live eternally; and yet, by a beautiful irony, we will.

Death has been destroyed by the Creator who gave us life. Although, in the way that time unfolds, we unfortunately cannot clearly see this as of yet. But this too is wisdom. Otherwise, wouldn’t we make the same mistakes all over again? If we clearly understood that death has no sting, if we laughed in the face of death, I fear we would try yet again to live our immortality in this world alone—with the same disastrous results.

Death cannot destroy us, but we all still must die. And through our deaths, we are born anew into eternal life, through the love of God who conquered death two millennia ago. Is it strange for a man of science to state such a thing? No, there is ample evidence in support of these claims to tantalize a scientific mind, if it is unclouded by prejudice. Yet, also room enough to allow an avowed skeptic to freely stretch his unbelieving limbs, if he desires.

But there remains a deeper science of which I am speaking—a science of the heart and of the spirit, which speaks to the mind and teaches the soul matters of faith. This is the science that assures and comforts us; and it reveals glimpses of eternity, even from the vantage point of this world, to those who have sought and been given the eyes to see it.

Immortality was something we tried to take by force—motivated by pride, ambition and fear. Yet, all along eternal life was a gift freely offered to us, if we would only accept it in a spirit of humility, innocence and love.

~FS

I Could Use a Good Joke Today

It is difficult to tell a good punch-line, when we’re preoccupied with pulling our punches.

I’m all for you protecting my feelings, but I’m feeling it’s time for some good jokes.

Nothing breaks the ice better than a good laugh at oneself, won’t someone please tell me some good micro-aggressions? The kind that tear the veneer off our false proprieties, and let us enjoy a good belly laugh, a chortle, or a chuckle together.

I’m Irish, so make fun of the Irish. I’m white, so tell me an off-color joke. Offend me, please!

Just let me know were alive still, were free still, and we can enjoy a little fun at each other’s expense still! These things can be told without malice; jabs can be taken in a spirit of friendship. But it’s hard to be friends when we’re always pulling our punches. Someone, please tell me a good punch-line!

~FS

Confessions On A Lenten Billboard

I came into this world, as a sinner. I’m sorry, I know you don’t like that word. Nobody does. Though made in the image and likeness of God; I came into this world, as a sinner. It was already in my flesh, a foreshadowing of bad things to come, and a flashback to evils committed before my time. If I am being honest, really honest…well, is that possible? Knowing you’ll be reading this; assuming you do read it (but let’s pretend you won’t be reading this), then maybe I wouldn’t spill out all of my shame—suicidal, and cathartic. Suicidal, as it is the death of everything I pretend to be; cathartic, as it is the peace of salvation when I’m laid to rest.

The cacophony of our worldly pursuits is a bewildering assault upon the senses; I am shell-shocked in the midst of our wars, our competing ambitions. ‘Man for sale’, in the hopes of a slice of immortality, but this hope is turned to infamy—though this fact hides unrecognized, by the branded multitudes that ply themselves incessantly upon our digital marketplaces. ‘Oh, to be an influencer!’ The ravings of a meaningless existence; but for the fact that we are made in the image and likeness of God. But does even this fact matter? (If I fell in the forest would anyone hear me fall; and if nobody heard me, did I fall?!) Is an unknown pilgrim of any value? We cry out, ‘I must be known! Or what am I?’

I have studied theology, but I know carnality. I can recite verse, but I can live vice. Love inspires me to yearn, but in the moment of truth I only love myself. I have been given time, and so far I’ve mainly squandered it. How did this come to be? A babe with such potential, squirming in my mother’s arms. ‘Why, he could be anything he puts his mind to be!’ And yet, look! ‘Behold, the man!’ If I could be but a portion of the man who was beheld when those words were first spoken, so famously. Time is ticking, my friends, is it really so profitable to make our profit?

On a lonely road, in the middle of nowhere, they’ve erected a billboard, and only you and God will ever see it. You are free to market whatever you wish; this life of yours will be painted there to promote yourself as you will it. What are you selling now? Think wisely, time is ticking; come up with a good slogan that God will like. Can we trick him into buying us too? Even monks in the desert are selling themselves. Lord have mercy! Ambition is warring even in the lonely places, and in the solitude.

Lord have mercy on me, a sinner. Take me in your arms. Free us from the ragings of our minds. Soften the indignation that arises at the mention of our sin. Let us be honest with ourselves, if not each other, but hopefully with each other too; and especially let us be honest, with you! Our hope is in you…

~FS

Rebirth

For those of us who love the well-worn paths,

Who congregate under the familiar light.

Let’s make haste into a starless night~

Take flight! Fear not!

We’ll tread across the wild places,

Thrilling our soles with new sensations,

We’ll find our souls within us;

As we blaze the new-found trails.

Discoveries array before us;

For we who do cross the veil.

~FS