Eternity in our Hearts
William Shatner, Star Trek’s original Captain Kirk, flew to space on a private suborbital flight a year ago, and like many astronauts, had a profound, worldview-shattering experience.
Space was “unlike any blackness you can see or feel on Earth—deep, enveloping, all-encompassing. The contrast between the vicious coldness of space and the warm nurturing of Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness. Everything I had thought was wrong, everything I had expected to see was wrong.” Leaving the spacecraft after landing, he wept, and it took him some time to realize that he “was in grief for the Earth.”
He saw Earth as we can never see it from the surface: an isolated, fragile spot of warmth and life set against vast darkness. On the surface, if we don’t like one spot, we can move to another, assume inexhaustible resources, distract ourselves, and take our home for granted. But from space, the realization that all we have and are, all human history and experience, love and life exists in just one spot, on one little ball hanging in a vacuum, reveals…there is no backup.
Shatner received a gift, a view of home and life with an intensity few of us get this side of death. But even earthbound, peak events, great suffering, great love, imminent death can pull back the curtain.
At the end of his life as king, the Teacher of Ecclesiastes, having looked for meaning in pleasure, wealth, accomplishment, wisdom, has the shattering insight that none of it mattered. That in the face of the death we all share, everything we have and are is contained in just one moment, one spot on a planet with no backup. If we can’t find meaning herenow, it doesn’t exist—because nothing does anywhere else.
The Teacher, from his shattering realization, wrote that God has set eternity in our hearts. The unremembered awareness that all time, all at once everything and everywhen exist within us and are only ever accessible now and here. Searching anywhere else is striving after the wind. Shatner said, “I hope I never recover from this.”
That will be his choice. It is always ours as well.