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This, Too, Shall Pass

Perhaps you’ve heard the old legend, supposedly true, about the king who offered riches to any person in his kingdom who could come up with a saying which would apply to anything.

As the legend has it, the fortune was won by the wise man who invented the saying: “This, too, shall pass.” This saying will apply to anything you can think of, but in my opinion, it’s only half right. I’ll explain in a minute.

Fred Hoyle, one of the world’s brightest astronomers and a Fellow of Saint John’s College, Cambridge, in his book, The Nature of The Universe, published by Harper, pointed out that the sun, like everything else, has a limited life span.

The supply of hydrogen in the Sun will last for about fifty billion years, but long before it burns out – in about ten billion years – it will be getting too warm for our comfort. In other words, as more and more hydrogen gets converted into helium, the Sun will get hotter and hotter. This is another of those results that go the opposite way from what you might naturally expect. By the time the Sun has used about a third of its present store of hydrogen, the climate, even at the poles of the Earth, will be getting too hot for any forms of life that at present inhibit it. At a still later stage, the Sun will become so hot that the oceans will boil and life will become extinct.

In fact, as the supply of hydrogen gets smaller, the sun will get larger, slowly at first, and then it will swallow and consume, one by one, the planets now orbiting around it – first Mercury, then Venus, then the Earth, Mars, and even Jupiter.

This will happen in ten billion years. So, if you apply the saying of the ancient wise man, you will see that it even is true where our earth and even the Sun itself are concerned. “This, too, shall pass.”

However – and this is my point – the human race is evolving so rapidly in the fields of technology, long before the ten billion years are up, in fact it could be within the next hundred or so, the human race, enormous though it is, could be moved to some other planet. With ten billion years to work with, they wouldn’t even have to hurry. If they only moved one human being a year, they’d have seven billion years left over. So, while the earth is doomed, as are the other planets in our solar system, this does not necessarily apply to the human race itself as we know it here on our particular grain of dust in the incomprehensible vastness of the universe.

Just as a family used to move from an area which was no longer inhabitable, the entire race of man will be able to pick a nice new planet – a much younger one, perhaps, upon which to build civilization for a few billion more years.

So, while the saying, “This, too, shall pass” is true when applied to everything we see about us and the things that happen to us, it should have added to it, “new life, new birth continues”.

An old tree in the forest will one day topple and fall; but – long before that – it will have scattered its seeds, and the new young trees will be coming along for their turn in the sun.