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MIT Professor on Our Yearning for Immortality

American physicist and author Alan Lightman is a professor at MIT. He contemplates the day of his daughter’s wedding:

It was a perfect picture of utter joy, and utter tragedy. Because I wanted my daughter back as she was at age ten, or twenty. As we moved together toward that lovely arch, other scenes flashed through my mind: my daughter in first grade holding a starfish as big as herself, her smile missing a tooth … now she was thirty. I could see lines in her face.

Lightman confesses he has a hard time accepting that for him and his daughter and everything else, it all ends in nothingness:

Despite all the richness of the physical world — the majestic architecture of atoms, the rhythm of the tides, the luminescence of the galaxies — nature is missing something even more exquisite and grand. Some immortal substance, which lies hidden from view. Such exquisite stuff could not be made from matter, because all matter is slave to the second law of thermodynamics.

Perhaps this immortal thing that we wish for exists beyond time and space. Perhaps it is God. I cannot believe that nature could be so amiss. In my continual cravings for eternal youth and constancy, I am being sentimental. Perhaps I could accept the fact that in a few short years, my atoms will be scattered in wind and soil, my mind and thoughts gone, my “I-ness” dissolved in an infinite cavern of nothingness. But I cannot accept that fate even though I believe it to be true. I cannot force my mind to go to that dark place.

Possible Preaching Angle:

Such is the hopelessness of those without Christ (Eph. 2:12), but compare it to the hope of eternal life for the believer—“In the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time” (Titus 1:2).

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