David Fullbright looked up above and saw the endless expanse of stars, where his solemn duty lay. He looked below and saw the dwindling image of Earth, where every last person that he had loved, hated and feared would reside until the end of their days. He could not look back now, could not regret the decision he had made. No, Dave was not on a last ditch effort to save Earth and all the people on it. He was not an interstellar vagabond; he was not even someone with a plan full of grandeur and hope. Dave was someone very ordinary, someone who had worked those menial jobs, who had struggled to pay his phone bill. There is only one major difference between Dave and the rest of humanity. Most people on Earth had heard his name, solely because they had come to the belief that he was completely insane. It’s hard to blame people for thinking that Dave was a crackpot. It is quite difficult to think a man sane if they have said they were building their own rocket to explore the stars after being told to by a man who is not quite a man. Dave’s popular representation is not important, however. What is of consequence is what Dave did in the great expanse that lies beyond the rock called Earth.
As David left the atmosphere of Earth, he finally had a few moments to think after the barrage of responsibilities he had attended to in order to simply survive. During this time, he could not help but reflect on the encounter that had led him to do something that even he himself believed to be an act of pure insanity. It had been an odd day even before he had met Jonathan. Well, as it happened, it was an absolutely beautiful night and Dave had decided to go for a walk to clear his mind. He was walking a path behind his house that he had walked dozens of times before, a path that he could have traveled with his eyes closed. Just as he reached the midpoint of his walk, he looked around and realized that this was most certainly not the path that he had walked so many times before. Before having a chance to contemplate this, the man(?) named Jonathan simply appeared before his eyes, and introduced himself with a bow and a flourish more fluid and graceful than any man should have been capable of. The conversation that followed had seemed to go on for hours on end, with each second bringing a newer and more fantastical revelation to David’s bewildered mind. At the end of that night, when Jonathan brought Dave back to his house, one desire burned with an intensity that would have blotted out the sun; David needed to explore the stars. It was with this thought that David began to prepare for the next step in his journey.
While you may be asking yourself how a man of David’s financial position and humble educations could build a vessel capable of soaring the endless lake of stars, I beseech you to expunge these doubts and questions, as they will accomplish nothing good and bring only confusion.
After snapping out of his reverie, David started to again attend to the duties required of him, if he wished to be successful in his travels. The first thing that he had been commanded to do was to make daily reports on the stars that would be sent back to earth through the transmitter that he had been given instructions on how to build. The first thing that Dave sent back to Earth was a description of the absolutely stunning view that he was so blessed to see; the view of the earth diminishing as he traversed deeper into the cosmos, the light that seemed to be so ubiquitous when one looked to one side and then when one turned their head seemed to disappear into the abyss. Even though David would go on to see things of beauty and wonder that far surpassed those that he first encountered, it was these first moments that would stay with him forever. The spectacles that David saw in the early part of his travels were the ones that truly made him believe everything that Jonathan had told him, from the stories of his greatness all the way to the warnings that he had been given on the horrors that lie at the edges of the stars.
David’s duty was two-fold. It was not one that could be easily completed, but it was not something that was impossible for a mortal man to accomplish. David had been instructed to document everything that he saw and through this documentation process, find a place that he could live on and invite the rest of humanity to join him. Or, at least, the people who were brave enough to believe the words of Jonathan and actions of David.
Many facets of David’s journey through the stars are integral to understanding everything that his story has to offer. One item that holds special import is his willingness to go through with the requests made by Jonathan. To be able to find someone so willing to go through with a request that had such an air of ridiculousness is not a feat to be scoffed at. What is still unknown to the average man, and will most likely never be discovered, is how Jonathan was able to find the right man for his mission the very first time that he asked. David was adamant in the fact that he was the first one to be asked to go on the voyage, and there is simply no reason to doubt this fact.
Another item that one’s eyes should be drawn to was David’s complete and utter dedication to the mission that he had been given. While there are many who would see this mission as something worthy of being completed, there are far fewer who would promise to be the ones to complete it, and even fewer would follow through on the promise they made. This should not be overlooked. The time that David put into exploring the stars was certainly impressive, as it was the bulk of his entire life, but his willingness is far more impressive. For one to dedicate their life to ensure the future of their own race based on a simple faith is just beyond the capacity of most. An action such as this places David in the same realm as men such as Abraham, Noah and other biblical greats.
While it is beyond question that David was a man of special import and someone who caused the path of humanity to switch to a much better one, it would be a dire mistake to say that he was infallible. As one can imagine, even with a tangible destiny constantly present, it could get to be very lonely in the vast expanses of space. As this issue got worse and worse, David came to be angry at Jonathan for placing him in the spacecraft with nothing but his thoughts and duties to keep him company. This anger manifested itself in a rebelliousness that caused the mission of exploring the stars, and David’s mortal life to be placed into serious danger. In this situation, Jonathan again appeared to David to keep him from making a mistake that no one could fix, Man or otherwise. Jonathan came to David just as he was passing by Pluto, on the verge of leaving the solar system that no one had ever left. When Jonathan came to David this time, he looked quite different from the first time that David had seen him. From the genteel and exceedingly regal appearance that Jonathan had exuded back on Earth, he had now transformed into someone who looked much more like a sick man, pale and waxy, in clothes that looked like they had lain in the gutter for weeks and a countenance that suggested nothing more and nothing less than pure and utter exhaustion. When David laid eyes on him in this condition, he was sincerely worried for both the health of Jonathan and how a change so dramatic would affect David. In a way, the obvious difficulty that Jonathan was facing accomplished much the same goal as the message that he had come to deliver. Jonathan told David that he looked like this because he was so far away from Earth, the place of his domain. The message that Jonathan came to deliver was not one focused on sympathy, kindness or any type of message that would ease the mind of David. It was one of pragmatism and honesty, the same tone of voice that had convinced David to go on this voyage in the first place. Jonathan told David that no matter how bad he wanted to go back to Earth, no matter how lonely he was and regardless of how much he regretted going on this voyage, it did not matter. He had made a promise, a solemn oath to perform a task that no other human had been entrusted with. No matter the difficulties, he was honor bound to continue on with his mission. As Jonathan had made explicitly obvious, he did not come to make the decision that David had made any easier to come to terms with, and judging by the appearance of Jonathan, he certainly was not doing it for his own wellbeing.
David was not comforted by this meeting. His mood was not improved, he was not in a better state of mind. What had happened was a steeling of the nerves, a true understanding of the importance of the mission that he was on. At the end of this encounter, there was one item that had slowly gestated and grown in David’s mind. It was not the duty of those above us or greater than us to provide us with meaning, that is the duty of each and every human being. Just because David’s assignment was of much more importance than those of the rest of humanity, this did not excuse him from this simple truth. We all, each and every one of us, must discover the meaning that lies within both the great and menial events of our lives. The importance and grandeur of one’s work will provide some sense of meaning, at least for a while. But, as David discovered, this is not the thing that is most important. Tasks and jobs in life are not hard to find, and all of them can have meaning.
All of the events in the story so far all occurred within ten years; the first encounter with Jonathan, building a craft to explore the stars and even leaving the solar system. Throughout this time, with the encouragement from Jonathan at the edge of the solar system, David continued to send back reports of the great expanse to Earth and kept up his promise to look for a place that he could settle down on and live the rest of his days on, possibly waiting for another person of the human race to join. Waiting and searching for this place was not easy; it took David another thirty years after passing Pluto and venturing into areas unexplored even by robots.
When the day finally came that David found a planet that suited him it struck him like a blow. He had passed by planets that were beautiful before, he had even passed by planets that would be habitable to humans. However, the discovery of this planet was an event that struck David to the very core of his being. It was not something that he could explain, not something that he could describe to the people back on Earth (who, unbeknownst to David had become eager listeners to each and every one of his “broadcasts”) but it was something that struck a chord deep within him. When David saw this planet, this place he could call home, he performed the last of his duties on the ship that had carried him so far and prepared to land, at last, on the planet that he could finally call home.
When David landed on the planet, one thing that he could not get out of his head was the incredible similarity that this planet had to Earth, both when he had been above it in his ship and even more so now that he was on the surface. Within this overpowering similarity, there was something distinctly Other. Not different, necessarily, but something felt more than what David had experienced on Earth. With this feeling permeating every action that David took, he sent one last broadcast back to Earth, disclosing the location of the planet that he had landed on. David knew, even now that the people of Earth could find the place that David had discovered for them, that he would not see another human being before he died. He was now sixty years old, and the trip had taken David forty years to complete and that had been with a ship designed with the help of Jonathan. This did not cause David to despair, however, as it would have thirty years earlier. What this recognition did for David was very similar to the reaction that he had had when Jonathan had come to him on the verge of Pluto. There was no happiness, no sense of a burden being lifted, but there was a sense of meaning. David had not led a life of luxury, nor had he led a life making connections with the people around him. Even with all of the things that David had missed out on, he could not and would not regret the decision that he had made; he would not make the same mistake twice. David recognized that he had led a life of meaning, a life that would give people hope and a knowledge of other places to go, once Earth had finished its time as the home of humanity.
While Dave was undoubtedly entitled to his sense of accomplishment and justified in his sense of meaning and importance, he did not take this route. Left alone for forty years, one is able to learn many things, both about themselves and their surroundings. What David had come to realize, whether it was true or not, was that he had done absolutely nothing different from any other man or woman on Earth. He did not deserve any praise, any prize. No, David had come to realize something that is incredibly hard to come to terms with. We are not here, whether on Earth or otherwise, to serve our own purposes, nor to fulfill the wishes of those around us. We are here to serve a power greater than ourselves, here to perform a task that should serve humanity as a whole. Coming to this conclusion, David was visited one last time, by someone he thought he would never see again. Jonathan came one last time to talk to David, but it was both Jonathan and not. He was the Jonathan of this planet, the denizen of this corner of the Universe. With this last meeting, David was told what he needed to be told, and although the mundane people of this Earth will not know what this message is until the day we leave this planet, we will know. What we must remember is the lesson that David finally understood after forty years among the stars.
7 “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” -Luke 17:7-10