Plus Ultra

Dearest Rachel –

No, honey, this letter has nothing to do with My Hero Academia, despite that anime making a catchphrase out of this Latin motto. I don’t know enough about the series to comment upon it; I may have been the first otaku in the family, but I know better than to get involved when Daniel and Logan are watching a series together – all of which you’re well aware of, since you and I would hang out in the bedroom together while they were in the living room doing this, even as recently as two days prior to your departure. Nothing spoils a child’s enjoyment of a pastime than the fact that their parents enjoy it as well, and want to participate alongside their friends. Yes, we may have comparatively gotten the reputation of ‘the cool parents’ because we liked some of the same things he and his friends did, but we knew that actually being there in the crowd would put a damper on things. As a result, we stayed out of the fray whenever Daniel had friends over, and I’ve kept up that tradition – which means I know little of substance about the series, certainly not enough to write an entire letter to you about it.

Nor is it about the fact that this is the national motto of Spain, and the amusing historical fact that they had to change it from ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ after their very own sponsorship of the controversial (at least now) Cristobal Colon bore fruit, almost to their surprise. The original motto implied that their nation was the be-all and end-all of geography, an expression of ‘Spanish exceptionalism,’ if you will (see, it’s not unique to us Americans, or even the period in which we live). Literally, it stated that, once you got to Spain, there was “nothing more beyond.” You had reached the pinnacle of civilization as was known at the time; at least, in their (admittedly biased, but what civilization or nation isn’t?) opinion. To have to backpedal on that assertion, based on Columbus’ discovery that, well ackchually, there is more beyond us, always struck me as hilarious, a particularly historic self-own. Although, kudos for them for recognizing the fact, and owning up to it almost immediately. It’s not the sort of thing our country would do, despite the fact that we are no longer “out of many, one” (which is what E Pluribus Unum translates to, after all), but rather “out of many, so many more, and constantly at each other’s throats,” despite that being a much more accurate description of American ‘civilization’ these days.

No, this has to do with a piece of actual American civilization. Namely, the holiday we celebrate today, as described and celebrated by Washington, and instituted by Lincoln, to specifically set aside a day to be grateful for all that we have – and all the trappings of celebration that go along with it.

This might’ve been something you would have done first thing in the morning on a day like today, but I found myself going through an article about Thanksgiving today. Specifically, various tweets about Thanksgiving, which would likely have amused you as much as they did me. Granted, you would’ve found some of them in your own feed, rather than reading an actual article about it, but the effect is the same. You would likely have shared the ones that made you laugh with me, and we would both had a good chuckle over them. So it’s only appropriate that I do the same for you in your absence.

Some of them got me to thinking, however, particularly those that addressed the near-overindulgence in all things good, about what it must be like on your side of the veil. Perhaps it was the one about “if I could have Thanksgiving dinner with anyone, alive or dead, I would want them to be alive” being just a little too on the nose for me to truly enjoy – although my situation allows for a deeper understanding and appreciation of the sentiment than the tweeter probably intended.

The thing is, it’s generally held as axiomatic that, for all that the human race is capable of, both good and bad, its accomplishments are but pale imitations of what their Creator is capable of. Put another way, the best that humanity (and humanity’s plane) has to offer is so much less than what heaven must be like. Meanwhile, the flipside being that the worst humanity can come up with barely even scratches the surface of what hell is like, which is absolutely terrifying in light of, say, our visit to Yad Vashem, just as an example. But let’s set that depressing thought behind us; this is a time to contemplate (and celebrate) what we have, and be amazed to think that, in comparison to heaven, what we have comes up so short.

Now, technically, we have no proof of this; no one who’s gone there – including you; for all these letters I’ve sent you, I’ve yet to receive a single reply, or am I just impatient? – has come back with evidence of what it’s like. And why would they? What descriptions we have suggest a place of neither tears nor pain, among other things; who would, having experienced it, want to return, even for a moment, to a place that contained all the unpleasant things that they’ve just been able to rid themselves of?

But it would stand to reason that a creation, however intelligent, gifted, and skilled, would not be able to surpass its Creator in coming up with Ultimate Good. And thus, this is something we have to assume about the paradise we once had the opportunity to inhabit, and with God‘s help, we may be permitted to attain in the future. Believe it or not, my first thoughts were (thanks to some of those tweets) contemplating whether calories would be an issue at ‘the wedding supper of the Lamb,’ and kind of metastasized from there.

For what it’s worth, I would assume they would be a non-issue; our heavenly bodies, glorified as they will be, would not be ruined by the consumption of various foodstuffs, no matter how rich or fatty. And between said wedding, supper and the various fruit trees contained within paradise, one can assume that we do eat up there, despite not needing to burn calories (although, how many calories would be involved in various forms of worship, I wonder?)

Other aspects of today’s holiday come to mind as likely activities within Paradise as I imagine it. I’ve heard some distain for sporting activities as they are practiced on this side (and, given humanity’s talent for it, I agree that they have been somewhat corrupted – who didn’t see that coming?), but as a participatory activity or spectacle, there’s little inherently wrong, and much good about them. And while I can’t see the Almighty taking sides between teams, He must enjoy our exercise of our skills that He gave us in something far more peaceful than warfare. Even a simple gesture to the sky after a score, as performed in the here and now, could be considered a form of worship, after all.

And, of course, there is the reunion of friends and family that accompanies this day. I realize that so many people dread this holiday for that very reason, and I have to say that this is one more reason for me to be grateful on this day – because I’m not one of them. Indeed, I can’t even relate to that situation, although I offer my sympathies. I can only dream about the reunion you might be having where you are, and how many conversations around that immense, cosmic table you must be participating in, today and every day.

There are, I realize, a few things that will be missing from that table (and that plane), some of which I have questions about. I do wish you could reply to my letters sometimes, and let me know where I’m right, and where I’m way off base. I’m sure God gets both amused and annoyed about how far off our guesses are (or that we even waste our time with making them), but I tend to think He could have solved that with a little more elaboration when he was here. Then again, some things just can’t be explained in human language, I suppose, especially when certain concepts literally don’t exist in that language or time frame.

Anyway, I need to prepare myself for the day, so I’ll have to let you go. Enjoy your day and your meal, and save a seat for me next to you. I’m sure I’ll be there soon enough, at least in the cosmic sense of things. Keep an eye on us, honey, and wish us luck. As always, we’re going to need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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