NE PLUS ULTRA or PLUS ULTRA?
“The ‘Strait of Gibralter’ is a narrow body of water connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The closeness of the southernmost part of Spain and the northern coast of Africa creates the Strait. In ancient times, there were two rocks – one on each side of the Strait. Greek legend said that Hercules had placed the rocks on either side of the Strait. People called these rocks ‘the Pillars of Hercules.’ The Spanish drew the Pillars on their fifteenth century coat of arms. They put scrolls across the Pillars. The artist wrote three Latin words on the scrolls. The words were ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ – No More Beyond. These words were a warning to sailors not to enter the Atlantic Ocean. Then, Christopher Columbus voyaged to the New World and returned to Europe. The Spanish government changed the inscription on the coat of arms. The artist removed the Latin word ‘Ne’ from the scroll. Now the inscription read, ‘Plus Ultra’ – More Beyond.
When have you truly desired for something more beyond what this life has to offer?
Describe a time when you truly desired to be with God in Heaven?
“Our hearts are restless until thy rest in Thee, O Lord” Augustine
“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus. Pascal
Flight from Death: The Quest for Immortality (Official Transcription)
Narrated by Gabriel Byrne (Usual Suspects, Vanity Fair, Miller’s Crossing), this seven-time Best Documentary award-winning film (Silver Lake Film Festival, Beverly Hills Film Festival) is the most comprehensive and mind-blowing investigation of humankind’s relationship with death ever captured on film. Hailed by many viewers as a “life-transformational film,” Flight from Death uncovers death anxiety as a possible root cause of many of our behaviors on a psychological, spiritual, and cultural level. Following the work of the late cultural anthropologist, Ernest Becker, and his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Denial of Death, this documentary explores the ongoing research of a group of social psychologists that may forever change the way we look at ourselves and the world. Over the last twenty-five years, this team of researchers has conducted over 300 laboratory studies, which substantiate Becker’s claim that death anxiety is a primary motivator of human behavior, specifically aggression and violence.
Here are some quotes from this phenomenological view of death.
Narration: “To have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression—and with all this yet to die.” (Ernest Becker).
Humankind has always been restless. Never satisfied with our physical limitations, we have always strived for more. With machines we conquer gravity and travel faster and farther than any other animal. We explore the heavens—the last great frontier—and we manipulate our own biology through medical science. In defiance of nature, we have manufactured the means to become rulers of the natural world. What is left to conquer… and are we satisfied? Since time immemorial we have battled our greatest limitation—one which seems to render our efforts to overcome and conquer…insignificant. Every day we participate in a multitude of activities to distance ourselves from harm and death, but beneath the surface we are aware that these day-to-day strategies are doomed to fail. We will die eventually, and all of this will come to an end. Human beings find themselves in quite the predicament. We have the mental capacity to ponder the infinite; seemingly capable of anything, yet housed in a heart-pumping, breath-gasping, decaying body. We are godly yet creaturely. Death is the end of the self. It is perhaps the ultimate mystery. We may never know what death really is and whether it marks the end of everything or, as many believe, the beginning of something else. Yet we do know that death is something to be avoided.
Sam Keen: At the gut level, my feeling is “death is unacceptable.” I did not sign that “contract.” I looked at the “small print” and everything else—it’s unacceptable. And that’s just sort of a gut feeling in the sense that we love life. Death is a… death is an insult to our spirit. Added to that, of course, is the fear of the process of dying—which is different—of the indignity of it, of the loss of control, of the pain associated with it.
Dan Liechty: We then recognize that death happens to us, and I have to live with the knowledge that I will die. All organisms have a life instinct—an instinct to live. Our species has as much of that as any other species, but we also have the intelligence to know that we are doomed.
Merlyn Mowrey: Our survival presents a problem for us because we have the kind of consciousness that makes us aware, from a pretty early point in life, that our desire to live—to feed and live and survive—is ultimately going to fail.
Dan Liechty: That creates a cognitive problem for us. It creates a potentially enormous amount of anxiety that we have to do something with. We carry a burden of anxiety that no other species carries.
Narration: …….. In every corner of the world, myths of immortality and the means to achieve it have been at the heart of people’s most cherished beliefs. From magical elixirs to elaborate tombs furnished with spectacular treasures, there was no limit to humankind’s imagination, and no possibility left unexplored. So how are things different today? While many of these antiquated methods still exist in some form or another, our technologies are advancing exponentially by the year, yet our death anxiety is still as present as ever. In our efforts to combat death and the aging process, scientists have now developed the means to reverse certain aspects of aging, while others claim to be on the verge of solving the problem of death altogether. Despite our technologies and desire for miracle cures, the reality of death has not changed. Infectious and parasitic disease will claim the lives of approximately 18 million people this year. Heart disease and other circulatory diseases will kill 16 million. Another 5 million will die in traffic accidents. In total, 54 million people alive this very moment will be dead in the next 12 months.
Some interesting tombstone sayings……………..
Sir John Strange; Here lies an honest lawyer, And that is Strange.
— Tombstone in England
John Brown is filling his last cavity.
— Dentist’s Tombstone
I told you that I was sick!
— Georgia Cemetary, USA
Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake; Stepped on the gas instead of the brake.
— Pennsylvania Tombstone, USA
Remember man, as you walk by, As you are now, so once was I, As I am now, so shall you be, Remember this and follow me.
— Tombstone in England
To follow you I’ll not consent, Until I know which way you went.
— Written on the tombstone in reply to one above
I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
- 1. God has set eternity in the hearts of man.
What does it mean that God has set eternity in our heart?
- It means that God has given to us a sense of eternity – a sense of thinking of and imagining life beyond our own short lives.
- It also means that man desires this eternal life.
- It means that man has a desire to understand God’s entire program. This is why man has pursued science and philosophy as well as theology. We have been gifted with a desire to understand all of creation.
- It also means that man has a hunger for God Himself.
“Our Heavenly Father has provided many delightful inns for us along our journey, but he takes great care to see that we do not mistake any of them for home.” (C.S. Lewis).
There is a longing for home – a call deep in the human spirit for more than life can provide. This itch which we cannot scratch is part of God’s plan.
Augustine: “Everlasting God, in whom we live and move and have our being: You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
Pascal: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man that only God can fill.”
- 2. People cannot fathom or understand the mystery
What does this mean in your life?
We cannot get the full picture. We have only the scaffolding and see only glimpses of the finished product. We cannot see clear results from our efforts.
We cannot be completely confident to know all aspects of anything. We still see through a glass darkly.
We are in the middle of a grand story that had had an incredible beginning and will have a glorious conclusion. But we do not know how all the pieces fit together.
What do people search for? What do people long for?
Does your view of life and afterlife give you satisfaction?
What do people you know search or long for?
What do you long for?
What does each verse say about our desire for God and Heaven?
2 Cor. 4:17-18
Great quotes from C. S. Lewis about our desire for Heaven
All the things that have ever deeply possessed your souls have been but hints of heaven-tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear…If I find in myself a desire which no experience this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world…Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.
Problem of Pain
If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Weight of Glory
Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise….Now there are two wrong ways of dealing with this fact, and one right way,
(1) The Fool’s Way–he puts the blame on the things themselves, he goes on all his life thinking that if only he tried another woman, or holiday, or whatever, then this time he would really catch the mysterious something…
(2) The Way of Disillusioned “Sensible’ Man–he soon decides that the whole thing was moonshine, And so he settles down and learns not to expect too much and represses the part of himself which used to as he would say, “to cry for the moon.”
(3) The Christian Way–Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well there is such a thing as water. We feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy, the most probable explanations is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death: I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside: I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.
The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: If you ever get there you will know what I mean. It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed and then cried: I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life.
The Last Battle
There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.
Problem of Pain
Aslan turned to them and said: “You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.”
Lucy said, “We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.”
“No fear of that,” said Aslan. “Have you not guessed?”
Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.
“There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are—as you used to call it in the Shadowlands—dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before. The Last Battle
We were made for a person. That being God.