There’s a real and wonderful place, beyond the reach of starship Enterprise, where few men or women have gone before: I can hear Guyanese children singing of it now, seated on the ground by the hundreds, in front of a screen where the words go by, backgrounded by artists’ impressions of the ever, ever, never, never land: “There’s no disappointment in heaven.” I hope Randy Pausch knew about it.
Brilliant scientist Randy Pausch was not the first academic to give a last lecture. Other scholars before him had given their answers to the question: “What wisdom would you try to impart to the world if you knew it was your last chance?” But their answers, to press the pun, had been, well, academic. His was real, literally his last: In August 2007, doctors gave him three to six months more of good health. At the time of the lecture, December 2007, he didn’t feel like he was dying. He even dropped to the floor to do push-ups.1 Unlike Pausch, I have no medical deadline. I’ve worked with enough deadlines, though, to know that they can be stressful. But they weren’t from doctors. Also, the kind of death you die by failing to meet a publishing deadline is survivable. Somewhat.
Now, I do have another kind of deadline, a goodbye deadline, a good bye-line, I trust, scheduled for the month after this issue of your magazine should arrive at your address.
Randy Pausch’s last lecture reviewed what became of his childhood dreams. One of them was to be Captain Kirk.
Awkwardly, perhaps, I have no list of childhood dreams to review. As far as I recall—not very far, given my wandering memory—my wife is the only person I remember sharing my list of youthful fantasies with. If she chooses, she may share with you how much of my list, if any, came to be realized.
Pausch reflects on how “really cool” it was to meet his childhood idol, Captain Kirk, and even “cooler” to have the captain visit his research lab.
I’ve thought on that. Jesus is not my idol: He’s my God, Lord, and Savior. I remember Him answering a prayer of mine on the morning of my fifth birthday. These days He comes to my lab every Sunday, every Friday, and every other day, to see what I’m doing with words, and suggest how I can work them better. He has plans for me, plans to take me where few men or women have gone before.
Celebrated astrophysicist and planetary scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson tells CNN anchor Erin Burnett, in the video Go Out of This World With Neil deGrasse Tyson, that the universe is headed for its doom. “Get over it,” he advises. Then he adds, “The end I just described is a slow death.”2
I’ve thought on that. Maybe that’s the dream Jesus will let me fulfill: to meet the charismatic Tyson and tell him about the wonderful place where few men have gone before: Jesus has plans to take us there.
1 To show that he felt as good as he looked. His words and calisthenics are all there for the seeing and hearing at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo&t=260s.
2 https://plus.cnn.com/plus/interview-club/interview/ kiPunLlZ/go-out-of-this-world-with-neil-degrasse-tyson/ answer/860229d1-649b-452b-8e3f-21ef3417a181, accessed Apr. 7, 2022.
Lael Caesar is an associate editor of Adventist Review Ministries. Until the month of June, 2022.