Roll Right by Them Pearly Gates

You can't get to heaven on roller skates,
You'll roll right by them pearly gates.

-- From "Ain't Gonna Grieve My Lord No More" by An Unknown Artist

The Superbowl XLII broadcast included a commercial for a sci-fi thriller called Jumper about a young action hero who does Superman one better.  Superman could only leap tall buildings in a single bound, whereas this guy could instantly teleport himself anywhere in the world just by thinking about it.  One moment he might be hanging out on the clock face of Big Ben in London and the next atop the Great Sphinx in Egypt, with perhaps a stop at the local bank to loot its vault.  No limits, no boundaries, the movie trailer promised -- a pure adolescent fantasy that quickly propelled Jumper to the top of the box-office list.

Teleportation is sci-fi’s answer to one of the inconvenient truths about time and space, namely that it still takes time to get from here to there, no matter how fast you go.  Right now the speed of light is regarded as the fastest you can go.  That would get you to most places pretty fast, but not the sort of places that sci-fi writers like to explore in their fiction.  Even traveling at the speed of light, it would take 100,000 years or so just get across our own Milky Way Galaxy, never mind getting to a galaxy far, far away.

The dream of transcending limits of time and space is at least as old as the legend of Icarus, the figure from Greek mythology who escaped with his father Daedalus from imprisonment on the isle of Crete using wings fashioned from feathers and beeswax.  According to Ovid’s retelling of the story, Daedalus “applied his thought to new invention and altered the natural order of things” by making wings for himself and his son.  However, ignoring Daedulus’ warnings, Icarus was “drawn by desire for the heavens” and flew too close to the sun, causing the wax to melt and his flight to end unhappily.   

A desire for the heavens -- and a corresponding wish to be liberated from our earthbound existence – lies at the heart of much human striving, not to mention of spiritual aspiration.  Jesus tapped into this yearning when he proclaimed, “The kingdom of God is at hand.”  However, he first had to dispel the notion that this kingdom was to be found in another time or place.  "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed,” he said, “nor will they say, 'Lo, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you." This is something to bear in mind whenever we long to slip the surly bonds of earth and touch the face of God.  All our rushing about will bring us no closer to our heart’s desire, which lies closer at hand at every moment than our own breathing.        

Metamorphoses, translated by A.S. Kline
Matthew 3:2
Luke 17:20-21

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