Not to brag or anything, but I can make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. Not only that, but I have unambiguously proven my superhuman tactical genius at an elite orbital battle school, in which I obliterated an entire planet and the Formic race with a single strike. Heck, I once helped the Kwisatz Haderach of the planet Arrakis overthrow an entire empire merely by taking over the production of a spice! And that doesn’t even hold a candle to the time when I single-handedly saved the Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise from being assimilated into the Borg, thus sparing Earth the doom of being stuck with four seasons of Captain Riker. It’s all par for the course because, as you know, I am prone to soaring through outer space, ray gun in fist, with gorgeous brunette Space Princess-Babes in my brawny arms.
If this all sounds too fantastic for you, where have you been since you were a child? Were you not told that you can “reach for the stars” and that your only limitations were your own expectations? I remember looking up to the night sky as a child, taking in those peculiar little spots of light dancing oodles of light years away, and wondering what it would be like if I could take a trip to all those distant worlds. When I was six, the object I most coveted was a light saber. I was sure that the technology used by the Power Rangers to teleport using their communicators could in fact exist! Indeed, I wanted to be the one to invent it. Earth just couldn’t hold me! Perhaps I was older than I should have been before I realized that none of this stuff was actually real, or even possible for that matter. Much of it had to do with becoming a teenager and discovering an alien race much more strange and alluring than anything I’d ever read about: girls. That, and I discovered a world much more hostile and dystopic than even Tolkien’s Mordor: the “real” one.
In short, I started to become a man, and yea, I put away that childish thirst for high adventure and the impossible. Winning the esteem of alien races gave way to winning the affections of that one pretty girl (or at least attempting to), and even that soon gave way to contemplating the cosmic mystery of how to balance a checkbook. I came to realize that the only great adventures to be had would only take place in some fantastic future, leaving me to simply run the rat race and live vicariously through works of fiction.
And then I became Catholic.
All of the sudden, the most grotesque space monsters I ever could have encountered seemed like dust bunnies compared to the ravenous beasts of human sin. What is the Rancor compared to Pride? What are the giant sandworms of Arrakis compared to Lust? Oh, how much would I rather deal with the Daleks than deal with my own sin—to be thrown into the Sarlac than thrown into Gehenna! Conversely, how pale does the planet Pandora look in comparison to the Heavenly Jerusalem? How boring is the face on Mars compared to the face of God? Instead of traveling to the Planet of Two Suns, how much I would rather be right here and come to love the Son! Really, the problem with “reaching for the stars” is not that you’re reaching too high, but that you’re reaching too low.
It really does seem strange that so much of this fiction takes place in times far ahead of our own, in centuries or even millennia beyond this present age. We seem to intuit that the greatest adventures and the highest wonder we will ever experience have yet to come, and looking forward helps us to anticipate it and to bring some part of it to right now. Yet if we stop for one moment and examine our expectations, our promises, and our beliefs, we will begin to realize that, beyond our hope, the greatest adventure does not begin sometime outside of our ability to experience it, but it actually begins here, now, in this life, on this planet. What the fantastic Space Operas, beautiful alien worlds, and awe-inspiring technologies hint at are actual, deep, and partially known realities that we knew most clearly as children. The world really can’t hold us, and our imaginations relentlessly intimate this fact as we tell our stories set in space, alternate worlds, and even places like Middle Earth.
But in order to experience this adventure, there’s a catch: we must live as fully as we can right now, in this present moment. As much as the allure of outer space and distant worlds may draw in our imaginations, none of their imagined beauty and appeal can compare to the utmost importance of the actual moment at hand. Perhaps, instead of distant planets or galactic adventures, we imagine ourselves more content with a better job, a fulfilling relationship—marriage, for example—or having completed a college degree, or living a life traveling the globe and making a name for one’s self. None of these are bad, but insofar as each of these things exists only as a future prospect, none of these things deserves the full investment of your aspiration and attention as does this one, all-important moment.
Why is this?
The great 17th-Century spiritual master Fr. Jean Pierre de Caussade, SJ astutely claimed that the best, greatest, and most important thing that will ever happen to you is precisely what is happening to you. There is nothing we can look to for our peace other than the will of God, especially as it inhabits this moment. If you are now single, and find your life’s vocation to be marriage, then what that means for you is that God’s will in your current single state will have you grow toward marriage. It is the same with any vocation really—the priesthood, the religious life, anything. God may be calling you to be married someday, or to be a priest or religious, but right now, He is calling you to seek Him as a single person.
Forget crossing the 70,000-light year Delta Quadrant to come back home—this is hard! Sometimes moving forward in our lives may seem as difficult and impossible as doing such a thing. But how do you expect to find God in your future vocation if you can’t find God now? If you can’t find Him now and here, you won’t find Him then or there. God has given you only this moment, and if you do not seek Him with it, you never will. If you do not see in this moment the great, epic, adventurous, and exciting journey you long for in your stories, you will never truly know any adventure at all. If you do not bloom where you are planted, you will never bloom.
The promise of such great story telling of any kind—science fiction just happens to be among my favorites—is in revealing to us the greatness of our this-moment struggles. Our struggles against sin, our efforts to unite our will to God’s, our day-to-day battles with prayer, loving those around us, and not using our own choice of words to the incompetent desk clerks that possess an inordinate amount of influence over our emotions, each and every one carry the weight, dignity, and difficulty of even the loftiest travails accomplished by space heroes. We really are out of this world, but not in a way that our stories would have us literally think. We are out of this world in the realest and fullest sense as can be possible, and our stories are only vague shadows of this reality.
Chesterton once proclaimed, “Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” Correlatively, science fiction stories are also more than true—not because they tell us that other worlds exist, but because they tell us that other worlds can be explored.
You know, once I think about it, I realize I am a little short for a storm trooper. There’s no way on this side of the Gamma Quadrant that I ever could be a good friend with a Ferenge. And though it would be awesome to have blue, glowing eyes and ultra-cool mind powers, being lethally addicted to a mysterious spice might not be all it’s cracked up to be. But I can still save the galaxy, travel at faster-than-light speeds, and finally make that technological breakthrough that will have me communicate and teleport with a wrist watch-like device; I can overthrow the evil empires in my own heart with the child-like humility of a race of Ewoks and cross the vast distances of spiritual space to get me back home again, and I can do this all right here, right now, with all the excitement and adventure of the most fantastic of all space operas. Someday, God willing, I will have closed this chapter on the Final Frontier, and have found at last that one world that holds within itself all the wonder and excitement I longed for as a child: the New Heaven and the New Earth.
In the meantime, anyone know where I can get a good light saber?
Hi! My name is Nathan Kennedy, and I blog here!